Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
I’ve read some daft diary stories in my time – indeed, I’ve written quite a few of them – but the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary took the biscuit on Thursday when they reckoned Nigel Farage’s new book The Purple Revolution (which I am publishing in March) could count as a UKIP election expense.
Laugh? I nearly wet myself. Apparently if spending topped £20,000, Biteback would have to declare it as a political donation to UKIP, according to the ever-helpful Electoral Commission. Bollocks to that. I’ll just have to cancel the planned launch party in Monaco, I suppose.
In all seriousness, how any book by a politician can be considered any sort of election expense I just don’t know. Neither Farage nor UKIP will incur any expense in the production of the book. The risk is entirely ours. So I ask again, how is an expense? Answer. It isn’t.
I’ve finally finished my seat-by-seat predictions for the General Election. It’s been a mammoth task to predict 650 seats, but I am glad I did it. It’s taught me a lot about how the election is likely to pan out and highlighted some trends which I wouldn’t necessarily been aware of previously.
Of course, the work isn’t finished as I will continue to update each seat as I learn more. I’ve already revised one or two seats having gleaned more information from local sources, including Loughborough, where I now predict a Nicky Morgan hold.
I’ve put my money where my mouth is in these predictions, which, if you haven’t seen them yet, you can find here. I look forward to other pundits and commentators doing the same but, as usual, most will firmly sit on the fence, and then afterwards say it was the result they had predicted all along.
Anyway, you can find out what my final predictions are in The Independent on Sunday this weekend, or check out my blog.
So Peter Oborne reckons George Osborne wouldn’t stand in any future leadership contest and would throw his weight behind Boris Johnson. Really? No, really? Nope, me neither.
My Tosser of the Week has to go to the comedian who is standing in Thanet South. No, I’m not referring to Nigel Farage, but to Al Murray, The Pub Landlord.
The coverage given to his non-historic announcement this week has been quite unbelievable. It’s symptomatic of a media which is desperate to see the UKIP leader fall on his feet. For some reason, most pundits seem to be of the view that Murray will take votes off Farage. I suspect if he gets any votes at all they will come from disillusioned former supporters of the mainstream parties.
We’ll soon see, but I doubt if he will get more than a couple of hundred votes. Why? Because the voters of South Thanet will eventually realise that far from causing them to laugh, he’s actually laughing at them. And they won’t like it.
I went over to the dark side last year, and ditched my Blackberry in favour of an iPhone 5S. I’ve surprised myself and liked it more than I thought I would, but now it’s time for an upgrade. So I have to answer that eternal questions. Do I go for an iPhone 6 or a 6+? I think that comes under the banner of #FirstWorldProblems.
Take it from me, David Cameron will take part in the election debates, whatever the shilly-shallying this week. Those who think that this would be a mistake need to shut up, and develop a strategy where Cameron can emerge smelling of roses.
It’s just not possible for Cameron to shun any of the debates – and he should never have threatened to. However, what I suspect will happen now is that the Greens will be deemed a major party after all, and they will thus be invited to take part in the multi-party debate. That will then trigger a legal challenge by the SNP, who think they should take part too. Uncle Tom Cobley may then seek a judicial review! All very unseemly, but all eminently predictable.
It’s actually the broadcasters’ own fault. They should have set up a formal Debates Commission after the election, which could have solved all these problems independently of the political parties and broadcasters. One must be set up later this year so that we don’t have these squabbles next time around.
I’m reading former Julia Gillard’s autobiography at the moment. It’s one of the few political memoirs I have read which has entirely transformed my view of the subject. Fair dinkum. I particularly liked the passage where the former Australian Prime Minister says of her predecessor – and successor, for that matter – Kevin Rudd: “I don’t like to think in swear words, but he was a f******g s**t.” That’s my girl. I love Australian politics. Their politicians make ours look like pussies.
If you’re near a radio tonight, tune into my LBC show at 7pm. You might need a good supply of kleenex too. I’m doing an hour with Gordon Aikman, who is dying of Motor Neurone Disease. He was Policy Officer for the Better Together campaign in Scotland when he was diagnosed. He’s only 29 and is likely to die within twelve months.
He’s now made it his life’s mission to raise awareness of the disease, and ensure better care for future victims of MND. He’s raised a six figure sum and already changed public policy in Scotland. We’re going to follow his story over the next few months – not in a mawkish way, but because he wants people to know what happens when you get this terrible illness. I know his tale will be an inspiration to everyone listening.
So the Conservative new election slogan is “A Britain Living Within Its Means”. Well, that will get them out of bed and down the polling station on a cold Thursday morning in Auchtermuchty, won’t it? It’s possibly one of the least exciting election slogans since…well, er, the last one. Come on boys and girls: surely you can do better than that. Something like “Britain’s on the Right Path: Don’t Let Labour Ruin it. Again”. Well, it works for me…