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

I imagine The Spectator’s Andrew Neil and Fraser Nelson must have been pleased at the publicity from their annual summer party last Thursday. I arrived rather late on, and it was in full swing.

Virtually the first two people I clapped eyes on were Robbie Gibb and James Landale. James insisted on a selfie of the three of us, seeing as we had all been tipped for the Downing Street Head of Communications job – which Gibb has now taken. Much hilarity all round.

We’ve all read about the joshing between David Davis and Boris Johnson, and that’s all it was: joshing. Talk about events being totally overwritten by journalists who try to read malice and intrigue into everything…but there you go.

However, a sign of how much the mood has changed since the election was provided by two other Cabinet ministers who were going round the Spectator’s garden telling anyone they encountered that Theresa May’s authority was shot.

One of them even asked a journalist: “So: how long before we can topple her?” This was said with the Prime Minister standing three feet away. It was followed by: “We can say anything we like now. She can’t do anything to us.” Astonishing – not to say rather grubby.

Another Cabinet minister, said to have leadership ambitions, was criticising the Prime Minister to anyone would listen. I know that because I heard the same report of this from three separate sources.

As you will read below, I interviewed the Prime Minister on Wednesday. Given what she told her cabinet on Tuesday about unity and the importance of not leaking, I was severely tempted to warn her about who exactly was briefing against her. I’ll leave it to you to wonder whether I actually did.

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There was nearly a by-election recently, since a Conservative MP and a researcher were nearly asphyxiated. They entered a lift in Portcullis House only to find that the Labour MP who had just left the lift had clearly left a rather nasty aroma behind. They bailed out on the next floor, and walked the next two floors up, worried in case the next occupants of the lift blamed it on them.

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So on Wednesday afternoon, I trotted off to Number Ten to interview with May. I interviewed her many times when she was Home Secretary, but it was my first time that I had done so since she had become Prime Minister.

If I am honest, I was a little apprehensive, because I have always found her very difficult to interview – despite the fact that the last time I interviewed her she ended the interview by calling me ‘darling’. (Long story. You had to be there.)

Furthermore, the previous interviews had been quite short. Normally, I prefer not to over-prepare for an interview, because it can lead to a stultifying conversation if you just stick to a list of pre-prepared questions. To my mind, an interview has to have a conversational element to it, otherwise it can degenerate into a presenter haranguing an interviewee who then puts up the shutters and resorts to meaningless slogans. Being conversational does not, contrary to popular opinion, mean that you do a ‘soft’ interview. Just because you don’t shout it doesn’t mean you’re not being tough, but I have long given up on the idea that some people will ever accept that.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself by listening to the interview. I encountered a Prime Minister who didn’t seem at all brow-beaten or lacking in authority. Instead, I met one who appeared to have recovered her MoJo.

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I asked the Prime Minister if she thinks that Chris Evans is worth 12 times her salary, and if Gary Lineker was worth ten Clare Baldings. But while I think we are entitled to know what kind of salaries the BBC are paying their top executives and top talent, I don’t believe we need to know the exact one that individuals are paid.

Does it really add to the sum of human knowledge to know that Laura Kuenssberg is paid a third of what Jeremy Vine gets? Well, I suppose it tells us that there is a huge gender pay gap at the BBC but, beyond that, releasing the information simply appeals to the prurient and envious.

On my radio show, callers-in then felt entitled to demand I reveal my own salary. I’m certainly not embarrassed about the money I earn, but the only people that have a right to know what I earn are my boss, my partner and the tax man. And I think that should apply to John Humphrys, Eddie Mair and anyone else, whether they are in the public eye or not. They are not public servants in the way that MPs and senior civil servants are.

But there is nothing that the BBC likes doing more than self-flagellating navel-gazing. On Wednesday’s News at Ten, the first twelve minutes were taken up with the story, and journalists were talking about what their own ten o’clock news presenters were paid. You couldn’t make it up.

But the shark was really jumped when Jeremy Vine, on his Radio 2 show, interviewed his boss James Purnell and asked: “Why do you pay me so much?” To which the reply was: “Because you’re fantastic.” Pass the sick bucket. And for the avoidance of doubt, I am a fan of Jeremy Vine and his show. But three Laura Kuenssbergs? Come on.

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Many people think I owe the Prime Minister an apology for not only shunning a tie for the interview, but wearing blue suede shoes – £42 from M&S, since you ask. I thought blue suede shoes were wholly appropriate given that she had essentially told her Cabinet the day before: “Well you can knock me down,/step in my face,/slander my name,/all over the place”…but don’t do it again. Or you’ll be sacked.

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This time next week, I will be visiting some friends in Spain. They have a beautiful house with a fantastic pool overlooking a lake. I just want six days of R & R. All I intend to do is swim, sunbathe and read. And eat. And write my ConservativeHome Diary, because nothing must stand in the way of that.

104 comments for: Iain Dale: A Cabinet Minister asks “how long before we can topple her?” With May standing only three feet away.

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