Sunday, February 29, 2004


I've just been watching Clare Short on the Dimbleby Programme where she suddenly produced a fax from the Cabinet Secretary warning her not to do any more interviews and that he reserved the right to take further action under the Official Secrets Act. Mindblowing stuff. It was one of those moments where you are quite taken aback. John Pienaar described her on 5 Live this week as a 'loose cannon with direction'. I wonder how Tony Blair will wriggle out of this one.

Saturday, February 28, 2004


North Norfolk Radio is a brilliant new station covering the whole of North Norfolk (as you might expect!). They play Radio 2ish type music and cover local news superbly. I particularly like their website poll today. Visit it at and you will see why! Ahead of their time, or soothsayers? Talking of which, I discovered a talent yesterday I didn't know I had.... water divining! Visited a colleague in Tunstead and she had a water leak in the ground. Out came the metal sticks and she found the leak. I then gave it a go and much to my amazement I found that I could do it too. It's a gift. Some of us have it, some of us don't. Spent today out on the streets in Cromer. Great reaction. There really seems to be a sea change in people's political views now. For the first time in probably 15 years Labour voters are coming over to us. That bodes very well for me. I've asked a few of these people why they have disregarded the LibDems and they all say that the only way to get rid of Blair is to vote Conservative. I like it!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Spent this morning meeting senior council officials at North Norfolk District Council to get briefings on their work. A nice bunch of people with a genuine commitment to public service. This afternoon I met a group of local Cromer crab fishermen. They are very worried about the effect on their trade of the proposed wind farm off Cromer. But the big news of the day was my weigh-in - a massive 18 stone 2! Aaaaaagh! Unbeknown to me I was weighed in by a professional dietician who proceeded to give me my orders for my diet. It's going to be a hard four months... This evening drove through a blizzard to the Fakenham Conservatives AGM. One of their committee used to own the farm in Stibbard which my mother and her parents farmed in the 1950s. Small world. Funniest moment of the day was when I walked into the office to overhear the end of a telephone conversation. My colleague said to the caller, would he like to speak to me as I had just walked into the room. He declined saying he had to go and walk the dogs and put the phone down. Apparently he'd called to say what on earth qualified me to stand for parliament and wasn't the picture of me in the newspaper terrible. And he finally exploded: "And what about those dreadful dimples!!!" Quirk of nature, mate.

Just doing this before going to bed, waiting for my email to download. Just got back to Swanton Abbott from an evening in Colchester hosting A Night with Ann Widdecombe. We had 400 people in the audience so it was a great evening. These events are always slightly dependent on audience response. On March 13th we are in Sheringham Little Theatre. It seems they have sold out and have a lengthy waiting list. Very encouraging. Did an interview yesterday with the BBC World Service on the growing influence of Blogs. I think it goes out this weekend on the People & Politics programme. Tomorrow I have a meeting with North Norfolk District Council officers, a meeting with Cromer crab fishermen and the AGM of Fakenham Conservatives. Had a very bad night last night. Went to see the Hammers for the first time since Christmas. They were playing Fulham in an FA Cup replay. They played them off the park for 75 minutes then let in 3 goals in the last 15 minutes. Just like my dreams, they fade and die...I'm forever blowing bubbles... (and if you don't follow football you probably think I have just lostmy marbles...)

Monday, February 23, 2004


Norfolk County Council today announced a cut in their planned council tax rise. It will now be 5.7%, a cut of 2% on their original plans. This should ensure an end to the threat of capping. I've called today for LibDem controlled North Norfolk District Council to follow suit today and written to Norman Lamb to ask him to bring his influence to bear on them. It really is a scandal that a Group D house is charged the same in North Norfolk as it is in London. £1131 is what we pay. My house in Swanton Abbott is Group D and I'd love someone to quantify exactly what services we get for that amount. I'm going to do a lot of research on this in the coming months because I feel just as angry about it as other people. Watch this space.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


You may have read in the EDP about Breckland Councillors awarding themselves a 40% increase in allowances, something I believe is an utter disgrace. But that pales into insignificance when compared to what Torbay LibDem councillors have done. CLICK HERE to read the full shameful facts...

I've just come across a brilliant website called LibDem Watch. It keeps an eye on the various lunacies perpetrated by LibDem councils and politicians. You won't be surprised to learn that there isn't exactly a lack of material on it....

Talk about making a rod for my own back. As weigh-in day approaches and the diet starts, it's very funny that people keep telling me I've already lost weight. If only. Anyway, if I lose the anticipated 2 stones I have already got £1500 in the kitty, so only £500 to go. I think I am going to revise my target upwards to £5000 as it is going so well! If you'd like to sponsor me you can download a sponsorship form by CLICKING HERE! You know it's all in a good cause!

Spent most of the day catching up on letters and admin after a very hectic few days in the constituency. Had a very good meeting with the NorfolK Chief Constable Andy Hayman on Thursday lunchtime. He's very dynamic and has some very innovative ideas. In the evening I spoke at the Norwich South Conservatives AGM. I first joined Norwich South 22 years ago, which made me feel rather ancient. They are a good group and most of the officers are in their twenties. I think they're going to run a very good campaign in this year's local elections and then against Charles Clarke. The Liberals, of course, are trying to say they stand the best chance of beating Charles, but they have never done well in Norwich South. They also have a candidate who seems to have amnesia about where he actually lives. Friday was about the busiest day I have had for some time (see below). The Today Programme interview sparked off five or six others which I had to fit in between everything else. Spent a very enjoyable hour and a half at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve near Fakenham. A superb example of a community project. It was then on to Fakenham races where I met people from the Countryside Alliance before popping back into Norwich to do more radio. I then had an hour to finish off the preparation for my speech at North NorfolK Conservatives' Agm, held at Pinewood Leisdure Complex. I spoke for about 25 minutes, which is about the longest speech I have given in Norfolk. I've never had a standing ovation before and to be honest didn't quite know how to react! It was good to see so many people there. It's very encouraging that so many are committed to helping me win.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Just come back from an excellent meeting with Norfolk Chief Constable Andy Hayman and tonight I'm speaking to the AGM of Norwich South Conservatives. Just so you get a flavour of a typical day in the life of a PPC here's tomorrow's schedule...

0730 Drive into Norwich for interview on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
0900 Meeting with Norfolk Mental Health Trust Chairman in Hellesdon
1100 Visit Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve
1230 Visit Fakenham Races
1430 Meeting with North Norfolk District Councillors
1600 Office admin session
1900 Speak to North Norfolk Conservatives AGM

And I love it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Had a hectic day at Politico's yesterday doing several media interviews about moving the shop. I even did one for German TV. Having done a degree in German and lived there I ought to have conducted the interview in German but I chickened out. Pathetic. Then it was off up the A11 to Norfolk to go to Mundesley Parish Council. Mundesley is a great little resort on the North Norfolk Coast (for the uninitiated). I sat there during the meeting thinking that it was an ideal example of local democracy in action - no party politics, just people talking who are totally committed to the improvement of their local community. Today it's back South to prepare for the Politico's move to Kent.


Those of you who read of my involvement with the Rebecca House Alzheimers Unit in North Walsham will be interested to learn that Norman Lamb has now taken up the case, two weeks late. He's in the press proudly proclaiming he is meeting the Norfolk Mental Health Trust today and expressing great concern. Bit late Norman. Several of the relatives I met at Rebecca House told me he hadn't even replied to their letters. I have to say I was a tad annoyed that the EDP printed an article today about Mr Lamb's new found concern in this issue without mentioning that it me who brought the whole thing out into the public domain a fortnight ago, but that's what you're up against as a candidate. As the EDP journalist put it to me, "MP meets Health Chiefs" will always be more of a story than "Candidate meets Health Chiefs". I mustn't get too hung up on things like this because compared to many other candidates I know of I do get a very fair crack of the whip in the local media.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Just had an extremely busy few days in North Norfolk and last night I was guest speaker at Wantage Conservatives' Valentine's Day dinner. My friend Ed Vaizey is the candidate there. It was a hugely successful event and bearing in mind they had never heard of me, it was great that they managed to sell all the tickets. Just a quick recap on events last week. On Wednesday afternoon I drove to Norwich to record an hour long programme for Anglia TV called Table Talk. Essentially they film 6 people having a discussion over dinner. Jerry Hayes, the former Harlow MP was one of the participants. I greatly enjoyed it and the arguments were quite lively. When I watched it on Thursday night it even seemed to come over well on the screen. The Channel 4 Political Awards qwent quite well, although when I presented the book award to Peter Riddell of The Times I nearly forgot to give it to him! It was most amusing that my LibDem opponent Mr Lamb wasn't given a seat and had to take someone else's. I'm told his face was a picture when John Snow introduced me to present the book award. On Thursday morning I visited Cromer Hospital for a tour and a briefing from the Matron, Sue Tuck. Sue, it turns out, is related to my parents' neighbours in Saffron Walden. Small world. The rest of Thursday was spent in campaign planning meetings and meeting the chairman of Cromer High School governors. Friday was even busier with a briefing from the NFU in North Walsham, followed by half an hour on North Norfolk Radio, a speech to Norfolk County Councillors and speaking at the starting of a new branch of the Conservative Association. We had our Association Executive on Friday evening and I then went for a drink in a Cromer pub with Matt Lane, the Norfolk and Suffolk Area Campaign Director. Saturday was spent campaigning in Holt before driving 210 miles to Wantage. I like to live the high life! Today I will be mainly speechwriting. On Thursday I'm meeting the Norfolk Chief Constable to talk about policing issues and later on speaking at Norwich South Conservatives AGM. On Friday it's our own AGM in North Norfolk. which I'm told is usually very well attended. In between times I have to pop up to Mundesley (a mere 350 mile round trip!) to go their Parish Council meeting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Just got back to Swanton Abbott after recording an hour long programme for Anglia TV called Table Talk. It's being transmitted at 11.30pm tomorrow (Thursday) and is essentially a dinner party where six of us discuss the great issues of the day. I was on with a Cambridge Don, John Cushing who runs the Thursford Christmas extravaganzas and Fakenham Laundry and former Tory MP and all round funny man Jerry Hayes. After a bit of a slow start (well, we did begin by discussing Valentine's Day!) I got into my stride on the compensation culture, Asylum and the revival of the Conservative Party.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


This evening I'm presenting an award at the Channel 4 Political Awards. It seems I am to be about the only Conservative allowed near an award tonight as no Conservative has actually won one. Don't ask me how I know - I just do. It's my job to know these things! The programme goes out on Channel 4 at 7.30pm on Friday night. Betcha can't wait. Watch out for the rather severe haircut I have had today.


A few years ago I mulled over the possibility of writing a novel (as you do...). The plot would have centred around a Prime Minister who gradually loses his marbles. I wouldn't dream of suggesting for one minute that the Blessed Tony could suffer such an indignity...alright I will. He's always struck me as having it in him to go a bit starey-eyed. And now I have the proof - well anecdotal evidence. I gather he was giving an in-depth interview the other day to a hack who had better remain nameless (strangely it wasn't Andrew Gilligan) and was rattling on about how wonderful the economy was when he suddenly stopped and looked the journalist in the eye and continued: "Did you know I have toppled 4 regimes since I came to power?" and then carried on talking about the economy. Stranger and stranger said Alice.


Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could attend your own funeral? Having announced yesterday that Politico's will close its doors I have been inundated by very nice emails from people saying the most lovely things. However, if one more person calls either me or the shop an 'institution' I think I will deck them.

Quote from a fellow blogger, Jackalpe Pursuivant "Iain Dale for North Norfolk is a very entertaining site, in a strange way. More importantly, it is the blog, more than any other, that convinced me that the Conservatives might have a future. They have an energetic, well-spoken MP candidate in Iain Dale. And what's more, he seems genuinely interested in speaking to his prospective constituents and serving them. It's so crazy it just might work."


A letter written to my customers at Politico's today...

I am writing to tell you that Politico's is relocating to Kent on 12 March and continuing as an internet/mail order business at Our shop in Artillery Row will close on 12 March. Nearly 50% of the bookshop's turnover is now "not over the counter" and comes through website orders and through orders by post and telephone. Politico's will continue to organise book events in Westminster and run the shops at the three party conferences. This has been a difficult decision to make, but we know it is in the best interests of our business. Obviously we would prefer to keep our shop in Westminster but a huge rent rise, the effects on trade of the congestion charge (we estimate this has caused a 12% reduction in retail turnover) and extra national insurance costs, have meant that we have had to consider the best way forward for the longer term. We felt unable to sign a new ten year lease on our Artillery Row shop when faced with such huge increases in our overheads. We have looked at all options including selling the business and moving to smaller premises in London, but we have decided that moving out of London and operating an internet/mail order business is the most sensible way forward. I want to make this clear. We are NOT closing down. We are NOT disappearing from the Westminster scene! We will be holding regular events in Westminster and we intend to continue to run the bookshop at all the party conferences, as well as producing regular new titles catalogues. On a personal note, Politico's Bookstore has been my life, seven days a week, for the last six years and I have enjoyed every minute. I know many of our customers will be sad at our departure from Artillery Row, and I share those feelings. But life moves on and so must we. I know we're doing the right thing both for the business and our customers. I would like to thank all our customers, who have helped make Politico's such a success over the last seven years. I hope that they will all remain customers of our new business I would also like to place on record my thanks to our bookshop manager Jon Shipley and his assistant Abigail Allen. They will both be leaving the business at the end of the transition and I wish them well.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Released this today...

Iain Dale’s Pound for £1 Challenge

He may look a fine figure of a man, but believe it or not, North Norfolk Conservative Parliamentary Candidate Iain Dale weighs in at a phenomenal 18 stones – yes, 252lbs. Between March 1st and June 26th he aims to lose 28lbs, a whole two stones. But he needs an incentive. He’s decided the best way to achieve the body beautiful (Ok then, the body adequate) is to raise money to fund his election campaign and is asking you to sponsor him to the tune of £1 for every Pound he loses. So if he loses a stone you pay £14. If he loses two stones you pay £28. He doesn’t want to bankrupt anyone (or become a pale shadow of his former self) so he promises not to lose more than two stones! And the aim? To raise more than £2000 for his campaign fund. The weigh in on June 26th will take place (fully clothed – phew!) at the Worstead Branch Champagne & Strawberries function at Iain’s house in Swanton Abbott. He’s currently taking tips from Ann Widdecombe on how to shed the stones… To pledge money email!


On Saturday morning I went to Hoveton (in which Roy's of Wroxham is bizzarely situated) to attend a Councillor's surgery. Rita Massingham, is everything a Conservative Councillor should be. She is deeply involved in the local community, respected by everyone but is quite political and a thoroughly nice lady. There were thirty or forty people there which was an excellent turnout. They were very excercised about the lack of visible policing in the area so I shall be talking to the Chief Constable about that when I see him soon. I then spoke at the AGM of North Walsham Conservatives, who have elected an excellent new chairwoman. It's going to be a key area for us. After some campaigning in the afternoon I drove down to London to do News 24's paper review at quarter to midnight. Trouble was, there was nothing worth talking about in them. Still, you know me, I managed to drone on about something!

Friday, February 06, 2004


Drove up from London on Wednesday night and this week I didn't even manage to have my mobile phone stolen. On the way up stopped off to speak to Cambridge University Conservatives on the subject of The Tories & the Media. Had a good and lively audience of rather unsterotypical Cambridge students. Much enjoyed the dinner afterwards where the subjects of discussion ranged from the merits of Dallas (the TV series, not the town) to the worst speaker they have had to speak to them. No amount of money would drag the name out of me of course. As you know, I'm not one to gossip! On Thursday I drove over to Titchwell RSPB Reserve on the Norfolk coast for a briefing on bird matters and a look round. The first two people I saw on the reserve were members of North Norfolk Conservatives. Small world. Then drove to Holt for a meeting with the local NFU before visiting Rebecca House, the subject of the press release below. It was an amazing experience to meet the patients and relatives, who explained to me what a disaster it would be if the unit were run down. We had half a page in the Eastern Evening News, who made out they had discovered the wholoe story. Typical. But it was good coverage and they even wrote an editorial. This morning I was shown round Paston College (a sixth form college) in North Walsham by the highly enthusiastic Principal, Peter Mayne. Incredibly sixth form colleges receive only a third of the funding given to sixth forms within secondary schools. This evening I spoke to Blakeney Conservatives AGM. An extremely good turnout. A guy came up to me at the end and said: "I wasn't convinced about you before but I am now". I'll settle for that any day...

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


I issued this today.

North Norfolk Conservative Spokesman Iain Dale has slammed plans to run down three of Norfolk's specialist dementia care units for sufferers of Alzheimers. The three units at Rebecca House in North Walsham, Cygnet House in Long Stratton and the Ellacombe Unit in Norwich will all be affected within the next 18 months, with acute patients all being transferred to a central facility at Hellesdon Hospital on the outskirts of Norwich. Iain Dale has learned that last week the North Norfolk Mental Health Trust appointed a 'Project Manager' at a cost of more than £50,000 to manage the running down of the three units. Although less acute patients will remain at Rebecca House with reduced levels of nursing care, the facility will not take on any new patients and it is not clear if the other two facilities will remain open on the same basis. The future of Rebecca House is dependent on North Norfolk Primary Healthcare Trust gaining ownership of it and discussions are underway at the moment says PCT Chief Executive Diana Clark. Rebecca House and Signet House are purpose built, modern facilities, specially designed for the care of patients suffering from dementia. If patients do not get transferred to Hellesdon they will either remain at Rebecca House with a reduced level of nursing care or put into care homes who lack the specialist nursing staff to cope with them. Patients suffering from acute dementia need proper trained psychiatric nurses and these are only available in facilities such as Rebecca House. Patients in Rebecca House and the other facilities have been guaranteed an NHS bed for life. The units also take temporary patients in order to provide what is termed 'respite care' for their home carers. Under the new plans it is thought that Rebecca House would not take on any new patients and any 'respite care' patients would have to go to Hellesdon. If the plans go ahead relatives and friends of acute patients from North Norfolk face a potential round trip of 60 miles to visit. Staff at the facilities have been instructed by the Norfolk Mental Health Trust to say nothing to outside enquiries about the plans and there has been no formal consultation with carer groups. The reason given by the Trust for the move is its £1.8 million budget deficit. Iain Dale comments: "At first sight this decision is a scandal. I am appalled that the long term future of such an excellent unit as Rebecca House is under any sort of threat. The patients there need specialist care which only trained psychiatric nurses can provide. The Mental Health Trust appears to have made this decision with no consultation at all and is riding roughshod over the views of the carers, carers' groups and the staff in these facilities. I am today seeking assurances from North Norfolk Primary Care Trust and the Norfolk Mental Health Trust about the three facilities, and Rebecca House in particular as it affects primarily the people of North Norfolk.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Had the AGM of the Conservative History Group, of which I am the Director, this evening. We've only been going a year and already have 370 members. There's a real appetite out there to learn from our Party's history. Had a disaster at work today - yes, candidates do still have to earn a living! - when the sewerage pipe underneath the shop decided to go into reverse. I'll spare you the details but I ended up having to fork our £450 for a plumber when the problem was not even in our demise. I can see some nasty battles ahead to recoup it. I hope to have a major story in the EDP tomorrow. Fingers crossed it turns out right...

Sunday, February 01, 2004


On Friday afternoon I held a pensions forum with David Willetts, which went very well indeed. He's such an expert on the subject. It's a hugely important issue in North Norfolk and we invited a range of pensioner groups to participate. I am appalled that the EDP, despite sending a reporter to interview David, didn't feel it warranted a single word in their Saturday edition. Words will be had. North Norfolk Radio had him as the lead story. Nice to see at least one media organisation has its priorities right.

On Friday evening I attended Keith Simpson's (Mid Norfolk) constituency dinner with Liam Fox as the guest speaker. He gave an upbeat speech which will encourage most there to redouble their efforts to help win the next election. It was held at Wensum Valley Golf Club which is a great venue. Often these places serve the most dire food but the food was very good indeed - especially the chocolate dessert!

On Saturday I went to the NNCA's auction of promises which raised a four figure sum for party funds. I can easily spend that! The replies to the survey on my first newspaper are flooding in with some very interesting and encouraging comments.

Today has mostly been spent at a christening in Sussex and now I have to spend the evening writing three speeches. Might just catch Coronation Street though!