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Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

The Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday evening will be quite an event – but one that doubt he’ll get a lot of praise for.

Either he will be accused of lifting the lockdown too quickly, or more likely, not quickly enough. Whatever he announces won’t be good enough.

I am at the ‘safety first’ end of the argument. While I agree that tweaks can be made, there are huge dangers in lifting the lockdown in any meaningful way at this stage.

Unfortunately, I think media speculation about significant changes has been allowed to run away almost without challenge. So whatever tweaks Boris Johnson announces on Sunday will be seen as ‘not enough’ by some people. Inevitable, I suppose.

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It was a political triumph for Matt Hancock to reach his target of 100,000 tests on the last day of April. However, the fact that for five days running now the target has not been met has been embarrassing to say that least.

On Wednesday, only 69,000 tests were carried out. No one seems to know why. And then to cap it all, Boris Johnson announced an “ambition” to reach 200,000 tests per day by the end of May.

This was immediately written up as a “pledge” rather than an ambition. So why on earth did he say that – thus making another needless rod for his own back?

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One politician who has emerged with his reputation enhanced over the last few months is the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

He’s hosted two (I think) of the daily government press briefings. He is one of the few cabinet ministers to have shone. He’s appeared cool, calm and collected. He speaks like a human being and has largely avoided the dreadful soundbites which most of the others trot out on a daily basis.

I hope he will be used more often.

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Twitter spats are rarely edifying and, over the years, I have tried to minimise the number I get into – but sometimes needs must, especially when my professionalism or integrity are impugned: either deliberately or by implication

A couple of weeks ago Sky’s Adam Boulton, for reasons best known to himself, decided to launch a few grenades my way after I tweeted the results of a YouGov survey (ironically commissioned by Sky News), which showed that trust in broadcast and print journalists over Coronavirus was the lowest of any other category of relevant people, including politicians. I merely observed that journalists might take a moment to think about why that was.

Anyway, it all blew over fairly quickly and I didn’t think anymore of it. On Wednesday, Adam decided to take it one stage further and tweeted this:

The use of the arrows around the word ‘journalists’ is interesting and is presumably meant to question our bona fides without actually having the balls to do so outright.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a former political editor. She is a trained journalist. Most Spectator journalists are journalists at the top of their game.

I, on the other hand, have never self-identified as a journalist. Yes, there are journalistic things to what I do, but I’ve never been a traditional political reporter. and have never pretended to be one. I spent six months as a financial reporter for Lloyds List in 1990, but that is the extent of my reporting experience. I responded thus:

Adam spent 20 years as a political reporter and editor and was brilliant at it. He’s someone I look up to, so to be attacked in this way, I don’t mind admitting it, was quite wounding. To effectively be called a government stooge, or shill as the modern vernacular goes, was just totally unfair.

Anyone who has followed my utterances knows that I have never been an unalloyed fan of Boris Johnson, although I readily admit that he has turned out to be a far better Prime Minister than I was expecting, and I say so.

Because, you see, that’s what I do. I comment on politics and call things as I see them. If I think the Government is doing a good job I’ll say so. If I don’t, I won’t.

The trouble is, some people are so blinkered or deaf to reality that they only ever notice the occasions when I offer praise. Unfortunately for Adam, his timing could have been better since Politico’s London Playbook had this little gem of a quote from me in its morning email yesterday:

“Influential Tory Iain Dale castigates Johnson’s mantra that “we made the right decisions at the right time” as “complete bullshit … a meaningless and trite phrase.” Indeed, I think it was from last week’s Friday Diary on this site.

I don’t mind valid criticism. Indeed, I often learn from it, but there was nothing valid about this.

Some of you may say ‘Diddums, deal with it”, and maybe you’re right. Perhaps I should just turn the other cheek and ignore stuff like this, but sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.

125 comments for: Iain Dale: Boulton is wrong. I criticise as well as praise the Government – without fear or favour. And here’s evidence.

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