Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster, and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Balanced broadcasting is all about offending people equally – so this week I furthered that cause by offending both Muslims and Jews. Twice. On successive days, I did phone-ins on whether Iceland is right to ban male circumcision, and then on whether Halal and Kosher animal slaughter should be outlawed in this country.
It’s safe to say that peace and harmony didn’t break out on either subject. I’m quite clear that I don’t believe in inflicting unnecessary pain on babies or animals – a view which doesn’t seem to be prevalent among proponents of either religion. Indeed, it was seriously argued that circumcision causes no pain to babies because they can’t feel it. It was likened to a paper cut, can you believe.
It was also argued that it’s more hygienic not to have a foreskin. The point no-one could counter was when I said that if God hadn’t wanted us to have a foreskin, he wouldn’t have given us one. And if it was so useless, why hasn’t it been bred out of us?
People also argued that slitting an animal’s throat causes it no pain. They claimed it severed a nerve. Luckily, a vet rang in to explain to these poor deluded fools that they have been misled, and that the animals would be in a great deal of pain. The fact that many Halal/Kosher abattoirs fail hygiene tests didn’t seem to worry the proponents of religious slaughter.
I was also informed by my guest from Halal Consultations that the Prophet Mohammed himself had decreed that animals should be slaughtered in this way. I perhaps didn’t help interfaith understanding by telling him: “I don’t care what your prophet thinks: we live in the twenty-first century, not the Dark Ages” – but there we go. If we can’t, as a society, agree that if we have to kill chickens, sheep and cows so we can eat them, then pain must be minimised as much as possible, how can we describe ourselves as humane?
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So net immigration from the EU has dipped below 100,000 for the first time since 2013. If you voted Brexit and immigration was a reason, you probably view this with a degree of positivity. If you voted Remain, however, you may think it’s a sign that we’re on the highway to hell, and that this is yet further evidence of economic bad news.
On the other hand, if you’re like me you probably shrug your shoulders and despair at those at either extreme. They key word here is ‘net’. There are still 90,000 more EU nationals coming here than are leaving.
Given that we can’t fill thousands of jobs with domestic workers, I can’t really foresee a time when this will change. It may be that the numbers from the EU drop because we will presumably not be giving EU nationals preference over people from other countries outside the EU. If we don’t do that, it would be rather pointless to have left in the first place.
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Following the release of the immigration figures, George Eaton, the Political Editor of the New Statesman, tweeted: “Net migration from the EU to the UK has fallen below 100,000 for the first time in nearly five years. The Brexodus is underway.”
Eaton is an intelligent man, but this is just utter bollocks. Either he doesn’t understand the term ‘net migration’, or he is suffering from the same sort of post Brexit PTSD that has afflicted A C Grayling, among others – by which their Remainery blinds them to simple facts.
A Brexodus is not underway. Far from it. There are now 3.8 million EU nationals in the UK. In June 2016, there were just under 3.6 million. It would be nice if George admitted he was wrong, but I won’t hold my breath.
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On Wednesday night I went for dinner with a friend at the Gay Hussar in Soho. It’s a famous haunt for politicos, but has for some time been in danger of going out of business because its landlord wants it closed.
I joined a co-operative a few years ago, designed to raise money to fight a legal challenge if necessary. So I suppose I am a very minor shareholder in it. Its food is mainly Hungarian, and in the past had a reputation, shall we say, for being a bit sh*t.
So I was delighted to find it has massively improved! I had the Goulash soup to start with followed by a very tasty Wiener Schnitzel with a pepper salad. I did, however, forget to check if it had been killed in a non Halal or Kosher way… My bad.
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I don’t know how many of you listen to Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast, but if you don’t, check out his interview with James Cleverly, recorded in front of a live audience.
It’s 90 minutes long and I have to say it’s one of the funniest, most engaging interviews with a politician I have heard in a very long time. James is naturally funny, but he managed to combine being funny with making some very good political arguments in front of an audience, which I suspect was rather anti-Conservative by its very nature.
Some politicians can be very funny at the expense of their own party and colleagues. James didn’t fall into that trap, or of behaving like a pundit/commentator rather than an active politician. So many politicians become robots in settings like this, but James isn’t of that ilk. Some of his colleagues should have a listen, and then learn.
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Last May, I started a new political panel debate on CNN International called CNN Talk, alongside Liam Halligan from the Daily Telegraph, and the former Labour SPAD, Ayesha Hazarika.
Chaired by CNN’s Max Foster, it soon become quite a popular addition to their schedule. Initially shown once a week on Fridays at noon, in September it added a second show on a Monday. From next week it goes three times a week with a Wednesday show added, also at midday. I think it works because the three of us get along well and like each other, but we’re not afraid to have a real row if there is genuine disagreement.
And Max lets us get on with it, without it all being about him. Other presenters could learn a lot from how he chairs the debates. If you’ve never seen the show, do tune in at midday on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Channel 506 on Sky, or its also streamed live on the CNN Facebook page. The comments from people who view it there are also fed into the show from all around the globe.