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

On Wednesday, Thomas Mair received a whole life tariff for the murder of Jo Cox. Let’s not beat around the bush: this wasn’t an ordinary murder, it was a pre-planned terrorist murder. It wasn’t just the callous murder of a mother of two children, it was an attack on the state. It was an attack on our democracy.

That’s why I think a whole life sentence was the right one. Personally, I think too few of these are handed out. On the same day, Stephen Port was found guilty of murdering four young, gay men. Maybe he will get a whole life tariff, maybe he won’t. But he certainly should.

It’s astonishing that there are only 65 people in UK prisons serving a proper whole life sentence. As Thomas Mair joins the likes of Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe, I do wonder whether our murder laws need reform. Most other countries have degrees of murder. Surely the murder of an MP has to be considered differently to the murder of a someone during a robbery?  I am not saying that one human life is worth more than another, but the murder of a police officer or an MP surely has to be treated by society in a different way.

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In the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, I have noticed a worrying trend in the use of language by the Left, and it’s potentially quite insidious.

It is now trying to define anyone right of Tony Blair as a ‘Far Right’, or Alt Right, or a Far Right extremist. Or a fascist. Even the normally mild-mannered and sensible Jason Cowley, editor of the New Statesman, describes Donald Trump as a neo-fascist.

They are also trying to appropriate the word populism and declare it ‘a bad thing’, and associate it with people they disapprove of. Apparently only semi-fascists are populist. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that populism is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, how dare a politician come up with a policy that appeals to the masses?

What the Left means is that a policy that appeals to the masses but which the Islington elites disapprove of must of itself be a bad thing. In my experience, it’s often a very good thing. Oh dear. Does that make me a fascist?

The trouble is that people who use that word willy-nilly often haven’t got the faintest idea what it actually means. The Left associate the word ‘fascism’ with the Far Right, whereas anyone who has studied fascism will know it has just as much (some would say more) in common with the Left as it does with the Right.

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It seemed to come as a surprise to most that, during the Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond was able to display a sense of humour. Anyone who has ever met him will tell you that he can be quite funny, and usually has a twinkle in his eye. If he had been able to put his droll side on public display more often, I suspect he would have been better placed to stand in this summer’s Conservative leadership contest.

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Three years ago, I interviewed Sajid Javid on the state of the economy. He was then a Treasury minister.

It was one of those interviews in which the politician is determined not to answer the question, or admit any possibility that he or she might be wrong. It got quite a lot of coverage at the time.

All credit to Javid that he took it well, and I seem to remember he texted me afterwards to make clear he didn’t hold a grudge. He came on my show on Wednesday as a late substitute for Chris Grayling, and I am afraid to say we had a bit of a re-run when I interviewed him about the Autumn Statement.

We warmed up by having a bit of a row about the reason for increased borrowing, but I then asked him this question: “What’s your view on Philip Hammond’s announcement that tenants shouldn’t have to pay letting fees? Because your Housing Minister Gavin Barwell tweeted a few weeks ago (now deleted) that he thought this is the wrong thing to do.”

Javid stood by Hammond’s announcement, so I pressed him on Barwell’s clearly different opinion: “It’s pretty embarrassing, isn’t it?” I pressed – and pressed and pressed. In the end, though, I had to call it quits. So what conclusion do we draw from this? That when you’re in a hole, put your hands up and admit it? Isn’t that the only way to stop digging yourself a deeper hole?

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This autumn has been a great one for political books. I’ve just finished reading Ken Clarke’s memoir Kind of Blue and am making a start on Tim Shipman’s account of the EU referendum, All Out War.

My problem is that I don’t have a lot of time to read for pleasure because my job at Biteback Publishing means that reading author manuscripts has to take priority. This means that it sometimes takes me a couple of months to finish a book that I read for pleasure, as I only do that just before I go to sleep. Often I only manage a couple of pages before the Sandman comes.

Quite often I wake up at 4am with the light on, still holding the book open at the page I was at when I fell asleep. I have piles and piles, shelves and shelves of books that remain unread, and will probably do so for many years to come. Whenever I look at those books, retirement becomes an all too appealing prospect.

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