Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
The size of Boris Johnson’s majority came as a surprise to more or less everyone. I had predicted a majority of 32, and although I kept being told by people it would be bigger than that, I couldn’t quite believe this would be true. A few people said: “I think it will be a landslide, but I can’t say it in public because I’ll look a fool if it doesn’t happen.”
As I did in 2017…In our election night rehearsal show I last Tuesday, I created a false exit poll which had the Conservatives on 360, Labour on 207, the LibDems on 11 and the SNP on 48. I can’t say it was a prediction. But it certainly enabled our rehearsal discussion to be rather more accurate and inform our real discussion on the night.
The election result has changed the whole political narrative. I was a tremendous personal victory for the Prime Minister and for those advising him. One can carp about the campaign all one likes, but in the end it’s the result that matters.
For the first time since June 2016, I am now a hundred per cent confident we will leave the EU. There will now not be a second referendum and we needn’t utter that trite phrase “a people’s vote” ever again. Rejoice.
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I think Nicky Morgan continuing as Culture Secretary came as a surprise even to her. On our election night show, I specifically asked her if she would want to continue in the job as a peer – and she said no, she wanted a clean break and to step back. The Prime Minister, however, can be very persuasive, it seems.
I suspect it’s only a short stay on execution, though, and that he just wanted to keep the ship steady in anticipation of a full reshuffle in February. Two new appointments which I hope we can all welcome, though, are at the Welsh Office, where Simon Hart becomes Welsh Secretary, and where after 14 years as an MP, David Davies becomes a junior minister.
Simon is a very popular MP, with a wicked sense of humour, and David is someone a trenchant defender of the Conservative faith who isn’t afraid to take the fight to his opponents.
Back in 2003, I applied to be the candidate in Monmouth, despite, er, never having even been to Wales before. I wanted to get some experience of the candidates circuit, so I thought: what harm can be done? I remember driving around the constituency and falling in love with it. I called my partner to say how lovely it was, and got the response: “If you think I’m moving to Wales, you’ve got another think coming.”
I clicked with the Association Executive in the first interview, and was told I had topped the poll. In the second round, I just missed out on getting into the final, which included David and another candidate. I was told afterwards that David had organised his supporters to get behind anyone but me, and put someone into the final who he could easily beat.
Credit to him – the signs of a real political operator. And they picked the right man. Imagine if I had won, and it had emerged I had never been to Wales before! #awks.
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This week I had an article in the Daily Telegraph which took the BBC to task in various ways, not just for its election coverage and its coverage of Brexit, but also for the mindset which pervades its news and current affairs department.
The BBC should do what it does best, and stick to its public service remit. It has no business trying to compete with the commercial sector. Back in 2003. I presented some shows on a spoken word station called Oneword. The BBC then decided to create BBC7, which then morphed into Radio 4 Extra with the specific intention of putting Oneword out of business.
Within six months, it had succeeded. They’re now at it again. They now intend to create various genre-based music stations to compete with Heart 80s, Kisstory, Capital Xtra and Smooth Chill.
Two months ago, LBC launched a new rolling news channel – LBC News. It is now rumoured that the BBC is planning to launch something similar. The simple truth is that if they had their public service remit in their minds, they would have done that donkey’s years ago. They don’t seem even to acknowledge that by trying to outdo successful commercial stations, they are acting directly against their own charter – which I know hasn’t passed by advisers in Number 10 Downing Street.
Surely the scarce resources of the licence fee should be deployed to meet the BBC’s public service remit, not to replicate services which exist elsewhere? If the BBC can’t afford to fund free TV licences for the over 75s, surely it shouldn’t be wasting money on vanity projects. Presumably OfCom will advise them accordingly.
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This is my last column of 2019. I’d like to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and successful 2020. It may not quite have the political bumps and rides of 2019, but it could well hold the key as to whether Johnson can fulfil his potential as prime minister and can keep those new ex-Labour voters in the fold.