Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Twitter can be an unforgiving beast, as Jon Snow found out on Wednesday evening. He is a newsman I have tremendous respect for but, when he sent the following tweet, I and many others saw red: “How many of those who voted Leave knew or had ever heard about the single market, and knew whether they wanted to stay in it or leave it?”
Admittedly I have had to recreate the exact text of that tweet because after I sent the tweet below, he deleted his original….
…and replaced it with this…
The argument Snow was making was that the referendum was invalid because thick people didn’t know what they were voting for. But the fact is that we had more information available to us in this referendum than any other referendum or election in history.
Just because Mrs Miggins from 32 Acacia Avenue didn’t know the contents of an EU directive on environmental protection does not mean she shouldn’t have been able to vote. In general elections, some people cast their vote fpr all sorts of peculiar reasons. I’ve stood on enough doorsteps to know that.
I’ve had people tell me they are voting for a candidate because they fancy him. Or that another candidate doesn’t dress very well, so they couldn’t possibly vote for him or her. Sometimes people vote with their gut instinct. If we expected people to read all four parties’ manifestos before casting their vote, we’d have a very restricted electorate indeed. Perhaps Snow would like the electorate to be restricted to those living in Islington.
The fact is that we all knew we’d have to leave the Single Market because it wasn’t just Boris Johnson or Michael Gove who told us so: it was David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne on the Remain side. In addition, the EU itself made clear we wouldn’t be able to stay if we didn’t accept the continuation of complete freedom of movement of people and labour.
I rather like the fact that newscasters like Snow are cutting loose a bit and giving their views, but to treat voters as fools is perhaps not the wisest move.
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I writing this week’s diary on Thursday morning, so I don’t know the results of the two by-elections. But what I do know is that, whatever happens, it’s a lose-lose for Labour and a win-win for the Conservatives.
If Labour loses even one of the two seats, this will mark the first time that a governing party has taken a seat off the opposition in a by-election for 35 years. If Labour win both, this will guarantee Corbyn’s position until after the local elections in May.
The Corbynistas will be crowing about how it was Jeremy wot won it, when in actual fact it will be Jeremy who nearly lost it. These two by-elections have been vicious and spiteful – and for once it’s not the Liberal Democrats who have been most guilty of it. Labour’s campaign in Copeland has culminated in their message being encapsulated in the slogan “Tories Will Kill Your Babies”. It’s been the modern day equivalent of the racist campaign in Smethwick in 1966, which saw the slogan: “If you want a N***** for a neighbour, vote Labour.
Labour’s candidate in Stoke has been a disaster. His tweets have brought shame on him and his party, given that they selected him in the first place. When he does interviews, he comes across as shifty, nasty and just the kind of man you’d not want to vote for.
None the less, Paul Nuttall has had a disastrous campaign and, whatever the truth of the matter, has emerged as someone who has a Walter Mitty streak to his character. He is a very clever man, but also quite sensitive – and he will have been horrified by the media coverage he has attracted. Politics can be a very ugly business sometimes, as he has come to realise personally.
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I don’t know what it is, but since they moved their studio into the so-called ‘Glass Box’ ,something has happened to Sky News. The move coincided with them ‘losing’ quite a few of their more experienced presenters. Presenter lineups on any channel do change from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure I will be ‘refreshed’ at some point on LBC, although, having just signed a new contract, my detractors won’t be getting their way for quite some to come!
But the secret of change is to implement it gradually, rather than in a ‘big bang’. I also detect signs of dumbing down. This week one of their breakfast show’s 9.30am debates asked the question: “Who was the best James Bond”. That’s a phone-in for BBC Radio Surbiton, not for a major news channel. Most people tune into Sky to get the news, not an asinine debate like that.
Guess what! The presenters and the guests all disagreed who the best Bond was. Like anyone gave a toss. If my producer had told me we’d be doing a phone-in on that subject on LBC, I’d have laughed in her face and asked if she was feeling OK. I get the fact that programming is about light and shade, and three hour of relentless bad news is not going to drag in the viewers. But even so, if I want fluff in the morning, there’s plenty available on ITV and the BBC.
I remain a huge fan of Sky, and always watch it in preference to the BBC News Channel. It’s always had character, and the presenters seem freer to express their personalities than they do on the BBC – for obvious reasons, I suppose. I like a lot of their new presenters, especially Niall Paterson and Gamal Fanbulleh. At breakfast, Sarah Jane Mee and Jonathan Samuels are both fine journalists, but can we have less of the fluff, please?