Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
Rather predictably, Boris Johnson got a lot of criticism for being away at the time of the killing of Quasem Soleimani.
I mean, perish the thought that a politician should ever go on holiday. And quite what he was supposed to be able to do in Downing Street that he couldn’t have done while away no one ever explained. I imagine that Mustique has phones and the internet.
In the end, when the Prime Minister did make a public statement, it was pitch perfect, I thought. Some may well have thought that he should have unreservedly rowed in behind Donald Trump and others that he should have distanced himself more, but in the end I thought he got it just right – as indeed he did in the Commons exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions this week.
Corbyn, on the other hand, did his usual thing of being anti-American and pro-Iranian, to the extent that he almost seemed to be an Iranian lobbyist. “Will the Prime Minister assure the house that Iran will – ” insert pro Iranian statement here.
He couldn’t even bring himself, in a disastrous interview, to call Soleimani a terrorist. Instead, he referred to him as the head of Iran’s special forces, as if the Revolutionary Guard were somehow equivalent to the SAS. What a disgrace the man is – and thank God the electorate was sensible enough to prevent him getting anywhere near the levers of power.
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My producer exclaimed: “OMG, look at that,” as she pointed to the TV screen. Sky had just broken the news that Duke and Duchess of Suffolk were stepping back from their royal duties.
My heart sank. In 15 minutes, I was due to go on air. “Give a damn,” was my immediate thought. I hate covering royal stories. I just don’t care about them – but I knew this would dominate the whole evening, pushing everything else out of the spotlight.
I was gutted because I was very much looking forward to covering Whispering Barry Gardiner’s nascent Labour leadership bid! Scuppered! Instead, I was staring in the face three hours of talking about Harry, formerly known as Prince. Hey ho.
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I always like a good binge over Christmas – no, not on babysham or egg nog, but on a box set or two.
Last Christmas it was Game of Thrones, which somehow I had avoided over the years. I got to the end of Season Three, by which time I was thoroughly confused by the plot (is there one), and by the fact that the show has so many characters that I rather lost track of who they all were and who had been killed off.
This year I thought I’d try Madam Secretary, a US series about a female Secretary of State, obviously designed to be a replacement for the late lamented West Wing. I was searching for it on Netflix when I came across another political series called Secret City, which is a Netflix Original and filmed in Canberra. It’s more Bodyguard than West Wing, and has a big spy element to it.
When I saw that my namesake Alan Dale, who played Jim Robinson in Neighbours was playing the Aussie Prime Minister in the show, I thought I’d give it a go. It’s cliffhanger-tastic and runs over two series, and I can highly recommend it.
So I then moved on to Madam Secretary on Amazon Prime. This ran for six series, and I was hooked right from the start. As in West Wing, there’s a lot of walking and talking but the plot lines are superb, and as in the West Wing they often run over more than one episode.
The main character, Elizabeth McCord, comes to the job after her predecessor’s plane crashes in the Atlantic. She’s a former CIA agent who drifted into academia, and the thread that runs through the series is her battle with moral dilemmas.
She likes to think she runs an ethical foreign policy, but quickly realises that this is impossible. The action is split between her role as Secretary of State and the conflicts that it poses with her family life and relationship with her husband, Henry, who also turns out to be a secret agent.
The story lines regarding Russia and Iran are superb, if sometimes a little far-fetched, and I was actually watching an episode about a potential war with Iran when I found out about the killing of Soleimani. Madam Secretary runs over six series and 120 episodes. I’m now on episode 40! It’s well worth your attention.