Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
The Political Book Awards have been going for three years now. I started the event three years ago because I felt there was a real gap in the market for it. Political literature has always been seen as the black sheep of the literary family. Publishers tend to shy away from political books because they have bought into the myth that they don’t sell. What I have enjoyed most over the last three years is the fact that the judges really do go for quality, rather than just pick the book or author who is the most famous.
In two of the first three years, the main award has gone to relatively unknown authors. In 2012, Caroline Shenton won for her book The Day the Parliament Burned Down. This year it was the turn of Matthew Goodwin and Rob Ford for their book Revolt on the Right, one which has charted the rise of UKIP.
Both books could have been very off-putting academic tomes, but both are far from that. Mary Beard, one of the judges, made the point that political academics are capable of writing books which aren’t as dry as dust, and are accessible to those of us who aren’t festooned with PhDs in political science. Goodwin and Ford beat off very strong competition from Chris Bryant, Alan Johnson and Andrew Roberts, among others. It’s a cracking book, so if you haven’t read it yet, get it.
People keep commenting on the rather garish ties I wear on TV. To be honest, the only item of clothing I take genuine pleasure in buying is a tie. In my experience, most men just thrown on any old tie, without a thought about whether it matches the shirt or suit. I’ve lost count of the times I have seen a politician wear a stripy tie over a stripy shirt. Just no.
In fact, I’d outlaw most stripy ties. David Davis is the worst culprit. For me, there are only two brands of tie worth buying – Duchamp and Van Buck. Both are very colourful: the kind of tie Jon Snow wears on Channel 4 News. Van Buck ties have the distinct advantage of being around a third cheaper than their Duchamp equivalents, which retail at about £70. I always wear a loud tie when doing political punditry or the Sky Newspaper review. It means that people pay attention to the tie rather than the utter bollocks I sometimes utter on these occasions. Maybe that’s why Jon Snow wears them too.
So having completed my marathon 650 election predictions, I feel I am going to have to go back and revise some of them before too long. There are two new factors to compute. How will the rise in the Green vote, if it holds, affect the Labour and Liberal Democrat vote in marginal seats? And should I revise some of my forecasts in Con-Lab marginals such as Harlow?
The trend in the polls is clear to see, and it doesn’t seem as though Labour has any ideas to counter it. Standing on the safe ground of ‘defending the NHS’ may be great for their existing voters, but it doesn’t win over many new ones.
I know for a fact that opposition strategists are now even conceding a Conservative overall majority is something they conceive is possible. I still think we are a very long way from that, but there are so many imponderables, you cannot rule anything out.
Talking of ruling anything out, one thing I do rule out is the SNP winning 53 of Scotland’s 59 seats. That’s what Sky News are predicting. And by doing so, surely they risk making complete dicks of themselves. I’ve predicted that they will go up from six to 18 seats but, even if their poll ratings continue at something near their present levels, I just can’t see them getting many more than that.
Of course even were the SNP to win only half that level of support, it would be Ed Miliband’s worst nightmare come true. Labour need to be making gains in Scotland – not losing a quarter to half of their seats. Even in Wales they’re only likely to make two gains, in Cardiff Central and Cardiff North – so to get anything near a total to form the largest party they are going to have to outperform themselves across England.
Rory Bremner makes a very welcome return to our TV screens next Tuesday night on BBC2. I’ve spent a bit of time with him recently and I can tell you that he’s really developed his Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nigel Farage impressions. I don’t think he can do Nick Clegg though. Still, after May, I suppose there won’t be much point… Biting satire, there!
On Wednesday, I appeared on the Daily Politics for the third time in ten days. People will talk. I also recorded a short piece for This Week on why there aren’t many female political authors. A Labour MP had put down a Parliamentary Question asking why the Parliamentary Bookshop didn’t stock more books by female political authors. Simple really. You can’t stock what there isn’t a supply of.
Just as there aren’t enough women in elected politics, or the media, there aren’t enough women interested in writing worthy political tomes. But there are certainly enough women Labour MPs interested in wasting £250 of taxpayers’ money asking idiot questions about it.
All she had to do was pop into the Parliamentary Bookshop and ask to see the manager and ask the question herself. The manager of the Parliamentary Bookshop is, I should point out, a woman.