Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
This may sound odd, but I’ve never particularly enjoyed writing. I never pitch columns to newspapers like some of my contemporaries. I don’t need to write to earn a living. My mouth, as they say, does all the talking.
If a newspaper rings me up and asks me to write a column, sure, I’ll do it, and I hope I do it reasonably well, but I rarely enjoy it. I’ve noticed in recent weeks that I am getting an increasing number of approaches from newspapers where the conversation will start something like this: “Our Editor has got a bee in his bonnet about xxxxx and wonders if you’d like to write a column pointing out x, y and z.”
They then go into detail about some harebrained idea their Editor has had, imagining that I will be perfectly happy to bend my own views to his/hers. Three times in the last few days I’ve said no.
No, I don’t believe Boris Johnson is likely to be (or should get) toppled as Prime Minister. No, I don’t believe that the Coronavirus plays into the BBC’s hands in its fight against government reforms, and I most certainly don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn’s departure as Labour leader will be a loss to the body politic. So there.
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There isn’t a sector of society or the economy that hasn’t changed over the last month. Even politicians of different parties are being nice to each other, rather than acting in a partisan way. The media has had to change the way it operates, with studios shut to guests, and indeed in many cases presenters.
What hasn’t changed is the attitude of some journalists, who seem to think their well-learned modus operandi shouldn’t change at all. I’ve always thought that if the Second World War had been fought in the days of 24 hour news channels, we wouldn’t have won.
You can see it in the media today, which seems to think that everything that is happening should have been anticipated, that all Government politicians and civil servants are incompetent morons whose only interest is allowing as many people as possible to die.
Any new initiative that is announced is looked upon with scorn, and if all the measures haven’t been introduced within 24 hours in a perfect manner, this is cited as further evidence of government incompetence.
I am getting heartily sick of interviewers, especially on TV, who seem to think the public enjoy ‘Gotcha’ interviews at the moment. They don’t. Times are different. Interviewers should be informing and elucidating through their interviews and not, from the outset, trying to skewer.
I saw an interview the other day where a Minister had ventured onto a programme which Downing Street has been boycotting – wrongly in my view. By the end of the interview, I imagine the minister would have decided never to go on again.
The interviewer may have got a lot of satisfaction from the fact that the Minister was ritually humiliated, but what did the viewer learn? Only that the interviewer loved the sound of their own voice and was needlessly aggressive.
Of course we are all there to hold the government to account and question what it does. But there are ways of doing this without being a complete and utter arse.
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I’ve been in splendid isolation for ten days now. I thought I might become bored, but far from it. I haven’t even binged on box sets, restricting myself to one episode of Madam Secretary each night.
In recent days I have taken to sorting out my bookshelves, after an appearance on Sky News which had them in the background. People commented on the tidiness and were clearly far more interested in my bookshelves than anything I was saying.
I then rather stupidly decided to make a short video, giving a tour of some of my bookshelves. This video, believe it or not, was watched nearly 30,000 times. It prompted the proprietor of this website to wonder where his book was, as he hadn’t seen it in the video. Patience, my Lord, patience. I am currently rearranging my biography section and it will feature in that…
My partner is furious that I am putting all this on the internet. “Can’t you keep anything private?” is a question I’ve grown used to over the years. You can imagine how the pictures of my makeshift broadcasting studio in my bedroom have gone down with Him Indoors.