Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
So David Cameron and Boris Johnson are both attempting to lose weight. Join the club. Boris is a natural porker and, although we often see footage of him running, I suspect he has a constant battle keeping the pounds off. David Cameron and I have a similar body shape. We are both quite tall, but for tall people we have slightly excessively long backs and short legs. This means that any weight gain is distributed more widely across our bodies and we tend not to get large guts.
However, in my case, any weight gain is easily identifiable because it goes straight to my face. I was showing a friend a picture of me with Tony Blair taken at the 2001 Labour conference. I am barely recognisable now due to my fat face.
At that point I was touching 20 stone. I’m now a more comfortable 16 stone 8 pounds (on a good day). But I really want to knock off that half a stone. I’ve been toying with joining a gym, but doubt I would actually stick to going – so from Saturday I’m instituting a new running regime.
I hate running, but something’s got to be done. I’ve already started to try to change my diet and eat less rubbish, and indeed generally to eat less. Isn’t that the long term secret to losing weight? More exercise and eat less? We’ll soon see.
Wednesday’s terror attack wasn’t just an attack on Charlie Hebdo and its staff. Or even just an attack on Paris or France. It was an attack on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and indeed freedom itself. It wasn’t just a multiple murder. It was also an execution, carried in the style of the bad guys on ’24’.
I spoke to a friend in Paris, and she was almost in a state of complete shock. One thing she said reminded me of my own reaction to the events on 7 July 2005. “Things will never be the same again,” she said, or almost sobbed. I can remember walking along Victoria Embankment towards Portcullis House on the morning of 8 July 2005, helicopters buzzing overhead, and thinking the very same thought.
Actually, things do, of course, return to something resembling normal. But I wonder if they will for people who make their living by satirising others. I hope so. Because the freedom to offend is an important one.
The news that the US government has made a decision to close RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk will come as a devastating blow to the local economy there. It’s an area I know well, having grown up about 15 miles south of it.
It is a massive airbase with more than 16,000 people working there, many of them British. If it does indeed shut down completely it is difficult to imagine what the land could then be used for. I suppose one option might be to build a new garden city there. I almost hesitate to write that, as I’d hate to see it happen. But we do need to build a lot of new houses and they’ve got to go somewhere I suppose. One thing is that, for sure, Matt Hancock, the local MP, is in for a busy time.
This week, we learn from Ofcom that, in their judgement, the Green Party should not be classed as a “main party” at the election as they haven’t secured sufficient support in previous elections or current opinion polls.
I hold no candle for the Greens, but I do believe in fairness and, if I were them, I’d take this to Judicial Review. They are invariably outpolling the LibDems at the moment and, indeed, they outpolled them in the European elections. They are going to field candidates in most seats – more than ever before – they have an MP, they have MEPs and they control a council.
If the Liberal Democrats still count as a major party, then surely the Greens have a right to be too. Mind you, for broadcasters it would be a nightmare as we’d have to give them equal time. The problem is that they have very few nationally known spokesmen. UKIP used to suffer from the same problem, and to a certain extent still do.
The Daily Telegraph seems to be in the process of slowly committing suicide. This week, we learn that they have dispensed with the column written by the excellent Isabel Hardman. She’s a columnist who is clearly in the ascendant, and you’d have thought they have so few female writers that Isabel would be at the very bottom of their ‘axe’ list.
I just don’t understand what is happening to the paper which I used to regard as part of my staple morning routine. Either they’re intent on cutting costs because they’re putting it up for sale, or it is in a great deal of financial trouble. Whatever the truth may be, they’ve lost me to The Times, which seems to be going from strength to strength.
More bad news for the the Bow Group. The Spectator brings us the sad news that Sir John Major has quit as president. The reason given is that he just doesn’t have time any longer to fit them into his busy schedule. Likely story.
However, the good news for the group is that they have recruited two new patrons – Roger Scruton and David Starkey. I wonder if either of them know what they have let themselves in for. Any mention of the Bow Group on this site usually results in a flurry of threatening emails and solicitors’ letters. Save your time, lads. Neither the Editor or I give a toss about your puerile threats.*
Only four months to go until election day. I ought to feel excited. I ought to feel like a kid in a sweet shop. But the political debate this week has left me feeling bored and totally unexcited. The dodgy dossiers, the petty arguments about the NHS and the puerile insults are beginning to make me understand why some people no longer want to have any truck with party politics and don’t bother to vote.
If a political geek like me is feeling like that, goodness alone knows how others are going to survive the next four months. I had thought turnout at this election would be well over 70 per cent. I’m beginning to doubt that.
* Speak for yourself. Battening down hatches – Ed.