Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Ed Miliband’s troubles with the business community were highlighted by his no-show at the British Chambers of Commerce annual shindig. The fact that both Chuka Umunna and Ed Balls made speeches was ignored by a media looking for any opportunity to stick the boot in. The fact that Miliband had spoken at the CBI conference in November counted for nothing.

The trouble is that Labour find it difficult to wheel out people who have direct experience of running a business. I had Umunna on my show on Wednesday, and I asked him when he looked around the Shadow Cabinet table, how many people who could name who had ever run a business.

At first he did a bit of goldfish gulping and then eventually managed to name Jon Trickett, who may sit in the meetings but isn’t an actual member of the Shadow Cabinet. Trouble is, I can’t find any reference on the internet to any business that Trickett has ever run or even been employed by, although Wikipedia does inform us that from 1974-86 he worked as a builder and a plumber.

Of course, if I asked a slightly similar question to a Conservative member of the Cabinet about anyone round the table ever having been a teacher, I might get a similar answer.


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So Andy Carroll’s out for another two weeks.


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The Sun ran a feature the other day with the shock – shock I tell you – revelation that the BBC has paid £200,000 to MPs in appearance fees over the last 5 years. That’s £50,000 a year – in case, like the Sun, you have difficulty with maths.

What a scandal! What they didn’t point out, because it didn’t suit their narrative, is that 99 per cent of the time no payment is made if all MPs are doing is giving their political views in a short interview on a particular subject.

But if an MP makes a documentary, why on earth shouldn’t they get a fee, just like anyone else? If they do a BBC or Sky paper review, why should I get a fee and the MP not do so? Why shouldn’t Diane Abbott be paid the same fee as Michael Portillo for appearing on This Week?

A trumped up story designed to damage the BBC and politicians – perfect for the Sun, but yet another example of a media organisation trying to diminish politicians in the eyes of the electorate. I don’t know why they bother. Politicians are perfectly capable of doing that all by themselves.


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So who is the “top Tory” who bonked an au pair while his wife was downstairs at a friend’s dinner party? Guido Fawkes has the story but isn’t even dropping a hint. Spoilsport.


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I was going to be lynched on Saturday. This isn’t just because it wasn’t all that friendly to me the last time I was there. (I was booed on Any Questions before I had even uttered a word.) This time round, I was due to appear on Nicky Campbell’s Big Questions show on Sunday morning to discuss my new book The NHS: things that need to be said.

The trouble with raising even the most minor of criticisms about the health service is that you’re then accused of wanting to dismantle or even privatise it. My book says neither of those things, although I do say that the private sector has a key role to play in health provision.

Unlike most of the people who will criticise me (probably without even reading a word of the book) I have actually worked in a privately-run hospital. When I was 18, I spent a year working as a male nurse (stop laughing at the back) in a hospital for people with spinal injuries in the German spa town of Bad Wildungen.

It didn’t just cater for those with money, though. Most of the patients there were ordinary Germans whose health insurance (state-run) allowed them to come to this excellent facility. In Germany, France and virtually every European country the state and the private sector work in perfect harmony, and they have far better outcomes for virtually every serious illness – cancer in particular. There’s a lesson there somewhere.


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I don’t know Stanley Fink. I don’t think I have ever met him. I know nothing about his tax affairs.  But it is unfair that he is now getting it in the neck for saying that the definition of tax avoidance is so wide that virtually everyone does it. The fact that he is right will be completely ignored, as Labour say “Ha! Told you he was a wrong ‘un”.

If you have an ISA you’re avoiding tax. If you buy one of these Granny Bonds you’re avoiding tax. If you employ an accountant you do so in part because you only want to pay whatever tax you absolutely have to. It is claimed that Miliband and his brother avoided tax on the home they inherited from their father.

It’s perfectly legitimate for any politician to close any tax loopholes, but while they remain open no one should be surprised if people take advantage of them. All the tax loopholes Miliband complains about so bitterly were all in operation during the eight years he was, er, economic adviser to Gordon Brown in the Treasury.