Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
There are two sides to Twitter. It can be a wonderful medium to learn about what’s going on in the world, and it has enabled well-known people to more easily contactable and accountable. On the reverse side it can be a sewer – particularly if you are in any way remotely in the public eye. Let me give you two examples.
First, the upside.
On Sunday night I saw a frantic tweet from Harry Cole, asking if anyone knew the address of a Twitter follower of his who was threatening to take his own life.
This same person had phoned me several times over the last few months, and each time I managed to talk him down. I phoned Harry to tell him the background and, without going into too much detail, his address was established via Twitter, the police and ambulance services were called, and they got to him in time. It’s impossible to say for sure, but I do think that if Twitter had existed, this person might not now be alive.
Now for the downside.
On Tuesday evening, I was on a Newsnight panel with Polly Toynbee and Paul Waugh talking about the apparent death of the political manifesto. Polly launched into a tirade against Nigel Farage, and his interview with Andrew Marr. I put the counter view and disagreed with her.
I used phrases like “What Nigel was trying to say…”. I thought I was being quite nuanced in my response, and trying to analyse and explain where Farage was coming from. Twitter was having none of it. Nor was the Daily Express website, which carried the headline: “Farage was Right – Iain Dale attacks the BBC.” Even I started to doubt myself.
So I went back and watched the tape – which I rarely do because, believe it or not, I don’t get a kick out of indulging in the equivalent of a TV wank. And sure enough, I didn’t “defend”: I explained.
But once the narrative has caught alight, there is no way of extinguishing it. I was “fawning” over Farage. I had become a Farage “fan boy”. I did point a few of the Twitter critics to the interview I did on April 28th with Farage and, to be fair to several of them, they came back and withdrew their accusation, given thatmy lines of questioning could hardly be described as those which a “fan boy” would put.
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Change UK. Bless their little cotton socks.
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When I first went to the United States in 1987, I was proud to support the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. There were a few differences between the Republicans and the UK Conservative Party, but there was little doubt that they were sister parties.
Since the mid-1990s, the two parties have drifted apart both in philosophy and politics. The Republican Party has in large part been taken over by religious zealots. It is less of a political party nowadays; more of a religious sect. This week 25 white, middle-aged Republican state senators in Alabama voted en bloc to ban abortion in Alabama.
Ban it. Not restrict it, ban it. Even in cases of rape or incest. They’ve done it in the full expectation, or even hope, that it will be challenged in the courts. Their expectation is that it will be used to overturn Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court. They believe that Trump’s two conservative Supreme Court appointments, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, will vote the “right” way.
We’ll see. It’s very difficult now for any pro-choice Republican to run for office any longer. Absolutism has won the day. And if you show any signs of not being a fully-fledged God-fearing Christian, then you’re well advised to do something else with your life. I don’t know how many agnostics or atheists run for Republican office nowadays, but I suspect it’s a very low percentage. God help this country (if you’ll pardon the expression), or indeed the Conservative Party, if we ever venture down this road.
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The radio listening audience figures came out yesterday. It’s always squeaky bum time for any radio presenter or production team.
Given my to LBC’s evening show in September I wasn’t expecting good news – but, when the first set of figures came out in February, it showed I had achieved a record share in both terms of reach an audience share.
Again, this week, both reach and share went up, with 603,000 people tuning in each week. This is the highest in LBC’s 47 year history for the evening show, and it’s 12 per cent up year on year.
But you’re only as good as your last quarterly figures, and it’s now time to start worrying about the next quarter – because what goes up, can also come down.