Friday, December 24, 2010


From the book blurb...

"Over the last two and a half years Iain Dale has interviewed more than 25 leading political figures for Total Politics magazine. Using the In conversation format, his unique interviewing style has lulled many a politician into a false sense of security and led them to reveal perhaps more than they intended. In these extended versions of the interviews with appeared in Total Politics, Iain Dale reveals new sides to the politicians we love and love to hate. Included in the book are interviews with...

Adam Boulton
Alastair Campbell
Andrew Neil
Eric Pickles
Peter Mandelson
Cherie Blair
Alex Salmond
David Cameron
David Owen
Hazel Blears
Jacqui Smith
Malcolm Pearson
Nigel Farage
Vince Cable
Tony Benn
Ken Livingstone
Nick Griffin
Paddy Ashdown
Ann Widdecombe
Alan Duncan
David Starkey
John Bercow

Each interview has an introductory contextual paragraph and a mini biography.

The interviews are extended versions of the interviews published in Total Politics Magazine.

Bloggers say goodbye!

Hattip: Political Scrapbook

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Vince Cable must go

Iain's blog on why Vince Cable must go, is over at Total Politics which can be found HERE.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Simon Heffer Interview: Full Length Version

This is the full length version of my interview with Simon Heffer, which appears in this month's edition of Total Politics.

So how have you found the change from working in a newspaper office to coming back to your old college?

I’ve still been writing three columns a week for the Telegraph. I think that was really important because I think if I had entirely come away, as some people do on sabbaticals, and had nothing to do, first of all, I wouldn’t have been paid, which would have made it very difficult for Mrs Heffer and the small Heffers, and second, I think I would have got out of touch and because there’s a part of almost every day when I’m doing some journalism, either writing a column or being in the office, or talking to colleagues by email or by telephone about things that I’m doing, I haven’t felt cut off. But what’s been nice about coming here is two things. I’ve had a lot of time to do what one might very pompously call ‘intellectual work’. I’ve had an opportunity to talk to people here about things I’m interested in, people who know much more about it than I do, or who have a different take on things to the take that I have, and that’s caused me to think slightly differently.

Has your sabbatical made you re-evaluate what working in the British media really entails?

No, because I think I’ve always had a pretty wide-eyed view of that anyway. I’ve been in Fleet Street for 25 years, I first wrote for the Telegraph in 1985, and the great romance of our trade wore off quite early on. Not because it was dreadful, I love being a journalist and I love my newspaper, I really do, and I’m very proud to work for it, but I realised that it’s actually not that glamorous. It’s bloody hard work. You never switch off, and I don’t think I have days off. You know I spend my Saturdays and Sundays reading piles of newspapers, listening to things, reading books. I think there are people that come to university and think that when they leave university they finish learning. I have now realised, and I have I think for a long time realised, I only started learning when I left university. What university did for me was it equipped me with the means to absorb information, to think about things when I absorbed it. So to come back here at the age of 50 and to share an intellectual life with people for a year has been incredible. And yes, it does make me look slightly differently at newspapers, but not in a despairing way by any stretch of the imagination, but to think that there may be ways that we can use the quality and the talent that we’ve got even better and develop it better.

You’ve written several books over the years. What do you get out of writing books that you don’t get out of writing columns?

Columns are about current affairs, and I’ve only really written one book about current affairs called ‘Nor shall my Sword’, which was about why I felt we should become independent from Scotland. Everybody had asked the Scots whether they’d like independence, nobody asked us. I believe in democracy and I thought it was rather a good thing to give everybody a say. But all the other books I’ve written have been on other, deeper subjects that aren’t current affairs and I suppose what I get out of it is that I’ve got a hinterland. I am deeply, deeply interested in the Victorians. I’m about to write, or start researching another book on the Victorians. I think that they were the most exciting era of people. The first book I wrote was about Thomas Carlyle. It was like a hobby and it allowed me to go on an intellectual adventure. The same is true to an extent of my book on Enoch Powell, which allowed me to go through that whole post-war history really of British politics and in which I’d always read widely because I thought as a political journalist I’d ought to know about it. But doing a book on Powell meant that I could really get under the surface of it and see it through the medium of an immensely influential and important figure in that period. So I think with all the books I’ve written, they give me a chance to write about things that I wouldn’t normally do in my newspaper columns and in a depth that obviously you can’t do in a newspaper column. I’ve always liked the idea of permanent sort of writing books. I am a great book collector. I’ve got a library of 7,000 books at home and I read ferociously. Even when I’m at work full-time I read ferociously. I try, every night when I come home, unless I’ve been out to dinner and I get home very late, to do about an hour’s reading.

Do you? Because I find it sometimes takes me three months to read a book now because I read three pages in bed and then I go to sleep, and I’ll wake up holding the book at five o’clock.

We’ve all done that. I have to discipline myself. I do have a lot of intellectual interests and most weeks I either see a book that I buy or I’m sent a book that I really want to read. I review a lot of books. I probably review 20 or 30 books a year. And I read every word of them. I think it’s despicable people who review books and read about three chapters and then think they know it all.

Do you read one book at a time or have several on the go?

I read one book at a time. And if that means I have to sit up until 2 o’clock in the morning finishing one to start another then I will. But it’s been obviously easier this year because I’ve had more time to read and I haven’t been getting home so late in the evenings. I’ve read a lot of books this year. Not just books that have come out this year but books that came out years ago that I bought and never got round to reading. So that’s been very useful.

Have you read any of the New Labour ones? Blair, Mandelson, Campbell?

I haven’t read Campbell. I’ve read Mandelson and I’ve read Blair. I read Blair the day it came out and then wrote about it for us. I like Tony Blair. It’s an old-fashionable thing to say. I’ve known Tony Blair 25 years. I’ve always had good relations with him. He’s always been honest with me which I know many people find that unusual as well. I don’t agree with Tony Blair’s politics, let me say, although I see that like me he’s very much against the 50p tax rate, so we agree on some things. But I thought his book was bizarre. It had almost Joycean aspects to it in extremes of consciousness.

I haven’t read it yet. I’ve read Mandelson’s.

Mandelson’s book I don’t know whether that should have been filed under fiction or fact. I couldn’t work that one out. If I were his publishers I’d enter it for the Booker prize.

Do you think that Powell is slowly being re-evaluated? I just wonder as time goes on whether people will actually start to understand the brilliance of the man.

Powell was in my view the greatest politician to think of our politics in the 20th century. I can’t think of anybody really since Gladstone who had the same command of ideas as Powell had. I knew Powell really well. Obviously I did, as I was his biographer. He is the only person who in my adult life has ever intellectually intimidated me.

I could reel off a whole list.

Well I’m an arrogant bastard I suppose. Let me define that. I was always incredibly careful what I said in front of Enoch because if one said anything even a quarter stupid, “I don’t think you mean anything,” he would say. “Have you thought about what you’re saying?” he would go on. And it was terrifying. The other thing about Enoch was he was such a brilliant writer. He wrote and spoke perfect English. He is a stunningly good writer.

Did he speak as he wrote?


Very few people do that.

Yes. I never heard Enoch utter a sentence that didn’t have a subject, object and a verb in it. And he weighed his words very carefully. He was very, very clever. He was spectacularly brilliant.

Whereas Tony Blair writes as he speaks.

Yes exactly. Enoch was also a textual critic which he learned really from A E Housman up here. If you are a textual critic or a professional writer you get used to understanding the meaning of words and you get used to evaluating words. But to go back to your question about Powell’s rehabilitation, I am absolutely sure that in 15 or 20 years time, quite a lot of the Powellite agenda will be accepted by almost everybody. Enoch said nearly 40 years ago, you can’t have a single currency without having a single economic policy and a single chancellor of the exchequer. Enoch was right about that. Enoch was right about monetarism in my view. He said that you only get period of mass inflation when you have a government that prints money. Enoch was the trade unionist friend in the 1960s and 70s. He said there’s no point in blaming the trade unions for inflation because they ask for high pay rises. Those rises can only be funded if there is money in the economy to fund them, and that was down to the government. He was right about that. But of course the really contentious issue with Enoch was all the immigration, or what his detractors call race. Enoch never made a speech about race. All Enoch speeches that people think are about race, like the so called ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, are about immigration. I know very well that he wasn’t a racist, and so did people like Michael Foot, and so does Tony Benn, both great friends of his. He wasn’t a racist. He wanted to spend the rest of his life in India, and probably would have done so, had it not become independent. And he had a love of Indian people, of Indian culture. He didn’t make judgements about people, he was too intelligent. He didn’t make judgements about people because of their race. And what those speeches said was we are a small island, we have a largely indigenous population, and if we start piling in people from a very different culture in small parts of that small island then there are going to be problems. And we have them. We have them now. And Enoch argued very strongly against what is now called a multicultural society. He wanted people who came here to integrate. And he argued that if you bring in such large numbers of people that integration is impossible, there is going to be a problem. I am very depressed that every time a Conservative mentions the two words, Enoch Powell, he or she is either removed from any job that he or she might have, sacked as a candidate as that poor man in the midlands was before the election - Nigel Hastilow - or forced to issue a grovelling apology, or perhaps even all three. You can’t mention the words Enoch Powell without everyone thinking that you are about to open a new version of Auschwitz somewhere.

Or indeed Harold Macmillan nowadays.

Can’t you mention Harold Macmillan?

Remember what happened to Lord Young...

Indeed. Powell, has been deemed by Dave to be toxic. When you take the level of intellectual debate down to that sort of playground level, not even playground level, just ignorance, just pig ignorance, then you can’t have a proper political discourse in this country. If I thought Dave would read it, I would send him a copy of my book on Powell for Christmas...

…he’s a voracious reader, something you have in common!

Maybe I should send him a copy then, but I suspect he wouldn’t read it. I think all he knows about Enoch is what Harriet Harman’s told him. He doesn’t seem to know anything about Enoch that’s actually true or realistic or accurate and so, before he goes around pushing brown paper or sticky stuff over the mouths of anyone who utters the P word, he might want to see what Enoch actually said and what he actually stood for.

Why do you always call him Dave? It’s rather condescending isn’t it?

If you asked me to call you Reg, because I like you and you’re my friend, and I don’t wish to spite you, I would call you Reg.

But he’s never said to anyone ‘call me Dave’.

I beg to differ. I seem to remember at the very start of his premiership he was going around saying ‘call me Dave’. And I thought well if that’s what he wants to be known as, I’ll oblige. I don’t call him Dave in my Wednesday column in the Telegraph, which is meant to be a bit high-table, I only call him Dave in my jolly-genial, let’s-try-and-have-a-bit-of-laugh Saturday morning column.

Is that really what you think of your Saturday column, as a sort of a bit of a laugh, because it doesn’t often read like that Simon!

I attempt to have a laugh in it. It’s a different tone. I like to be a bit popular I suppose on Saturday. I try to be a bit popular.

Or populist?

No. I’m not populist. Populism suggests that I’m doing things because I think people will like them. I’ve never written anything because I thought anybody would like it.

I’ll give you that one.

I may write things that people agree with. In that case they’re popular rather than populist.

Has Cameron surprised you at all in his first six months? Has he done anything that you thought actually that’s quite good, I wouldn’t have expected him to do that?

No. I think he’s a social democrat, who has always wanted to lead a social democratic government, and he’s done it, so I’m not remotely surprised. I think he’s obsessed with power, and the way he’s trying to destroy the British constitution by allowing a referendum on AV, redrawing constituency boundaries, threatening to sort out the House of Lords, fixed term parliaments, no Queen’s speech next year... this is all about trying to protect his power. It’s dangerous, because if a Conservative prime minister or whatever he wants to call himself, a coalition prime minister, a Lib Dem prime minster, I don’t know what he is, if he behaves in this awful way then it’s going to be an invitation to the Labour Party, when – it’s when rather than if they come back into power – to be just as brutal and to start rigging the constitution their way. And this is very dangerous.

Well I suppose he’d say they did it in their last period in office.

You and I were both told by our mothers when we were very small that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I think it would be quite in order for him to recalibrate the British constitution to where it was before the Brown terror got its hands on it, but I don’t know that it’s a good idea to do it now.

So for want of the better phrase, who are the ‘proper conservatives’ in the Cabinet?
I’ve got huge admiration for Iain Duncan Smith and I admired Iain long before he became a born-again welfarist. I think Iain is a really serious, sincere, hardworking public servant. I thought he was despicably treated by the Conservative Party. I admire Owen Paterson. I think Owen again is a very serious, dedicated politician. I’ve always wanted to admire William Hague.I didn’t admire him when he was leader of the party. I thought he was a very, very bad leader of the party and made some mistakes. But I thought when he ceased to be leader he grew enormously in stature. I think that William is a man of enormous political talent and I’m just sorry that he appears to have got off to a rather false start as foreign secretary. I feel he has preoccupations but what do I know? I don’t feel that, for whatever reason, he’s articulating our place in the world very well. I don’t give a stuff about William’s private life. I don’t know what it is but I don’t think he should talk about it. I don’t want to talk about it. I just hope that if he’s got issues that they can be resolved because he’s an enormously intelligent man, he’s a brilliant debator and he should use the job of foreign secretary to do something very profound for our country abroad – not least in redefining our relationship with the Americans and in starting to be a bit more realistic about Europe.

People of a certain age, towards which you and I are rapidly approaching, often say “well of course, there were more characters in politics in my day” and when you actually look ‘round current day politics, there’s no one that you would want to write a Powell-like biography of, is there?

I think I’m ahead of you old boy... Well, there are one or two, but Enoch was unusual, even in his time. It wasn’t unusual to have politicians who had a very distinguished war, but it was unusual to have them who’d been a professor of Greek before having a distinguished war. And then having that record of independence, of being determined to enunciate ideas... who comes close? Frank Field is probably the only person who comes close. But Frank hadn’t had that very interesting life before politics. I have unlimited admiration for Frank. He is an incredibly serious thinker and a man who, like Enoch, has avoided being tribal.

But what has he achieved?

I think Frank’s achievements have yet to be finalised. I think that also history will come to see that Frank was an enormous civilizing force in the Labour movement. The very fact that Frank survived when militant were trying to get him out of Birkenhead 20 years ago and came through that, I think that was an inspiration to a lot of people. I think Tony Blair understood the contribution that Frank had played. I think Frank’s an enormously important figure. If someone held a gun to my head and somebody said to me “you’ve got to write a biography of the present member of the House of Commons, it would be Frank.” On the Tory side... probably only Ken Clarke. I don’t think Ken has actually achieved anything notable other than surviving, but it would be an interesting story because he came from a very humble background in Nottingham, came to Cambridge, went to the bar, got into politics quite early. He’s had a tremendous political career. He’s a man of weight and Ken has never allowed himself to be ridden roughshod over in the way that so many politicians are. One reason I never went into politics - and I thought about it very seriously in my 20s when Thatcher was Prime Minister - was because I realised that it would be a life frustration in that I would see people who I regarded as my intellectual inferiors – that’s an awful thing to say, forgive me for saying it, but people who I didn’t think that I had my grasp of policy, my grasp of talent, my grasp of the issues - I would see those people getting preferment over me because I would not have been capable of keeping my criticism to myself. I would always have said, you know “we’re making a mistake here, we can’t go down this road.” To an extent Ken Clarke has done that, or did that between 1997 and getting into government now, and I admire that in him. There are so many people politics now who are just afraid to say what they believe.

But there must be some part of you still that thinks “well, actually the only way to change things is to be in there and try and do it from the inside.” You can influence things on the outside, you can’t actually effect change.

I think that I’ve got more influence as a newspaper columnist than I would have as a backbencher. And I think that if other things had happened and if I had gone into politics and I’d been offered a ministerial post, I think I would have been deemed to have been so bloody difficult that I wouldn’t have got any further. I think it is a great disincentive for people who are 20 years younger than me who might now be considering a career in politics to go into it. Because you think to yourself well when so much of politics today is about artifice and about superficiality and about appearance and about not being able to speak your mind. About not being able to do what you want... I don’t know where the opportunities come now for anybody who has got genuine political convictions to act upon them in public life. You can’t do it as a backbencher, you certainly can’t do it as a minister. And if you do it as an ex-minister like poor old David Young you get a bucket of shit thrown at you.

But isn’t that all down to the media age that we live in rather than the political system?

Yes but the politicans condone it as well. Don’t you think that if David Cameron had just turned around to the media the Friday before last and said “I don’t agree with David Young but he’s not in the government he can say what he likes” that would be the end of it? Because what would the BBC have done? It would have said “ohh!” And then what? Cameron could have just shut it down and said “he’s entitled to his own opinion, he’s not a member of the government. He’s actually doing a public service, I don’t agree with him, if you want to know my view ask me, I’ll tell you. That’s the end of it.

The Daily Express has nailed its colours to the mast on pulling out of the EU. Are you going to persuade the Daily Telegraph to do the same?

I’m not editor of the Daily Telegraph. I can’t see us doing this now because if we took that view we would be jumping on the bandwagon of another newspaper. My own private view of this which I have never made a secret of is that we should be out of Europe. And I’ve written that again and again over the last 25 years and nothing will change me from that. This is not because I’m a Little Englander or a bigot, I’m actually much happier in France than this country, I go to France a lot, I speak French, I absorb French and German culture and Italian culture very deeply.

The British people don’t seem to be getting very worked up about the subject at the moment. We don’t get worked up about anything. We don’t get worked up by the fact that all over Britain we’re told by very senior policemen and politicians there are cells of Islamist extremists who are plotting to blow up our women and children in shopping centres. I don’t know what it takes to get us worked up about something.

But Europe doesn’t figure in the top 10 policies people are concerned about. That’s because there’s no immediate threat of us having to sign up for a single currency of fiscal unity or have some common international immigration policy. You know what we’re like as a nation Iain, until something really nasty happens we don’t actually get on our high horse about it. Remember 1939? If we had any sense we’d have had sat on Hitler when he occupied in the Rhineland in 1936. We instead waited until he’s started murdering Jews, had annexed Austria and was sending his tanks into Poland. So things really grave have to happen that make it seem that we are under direct threat before we do anything. And I suspect a federalist move might do that. I still think that Cameron would be very sensible to have a non-binding referendum on whether we want to remain in the EU, because I think there would be a very resounding ‘we want to get out’. He could then turn round to his European partners and say “it was a nonbinding referendum, I don’t intend to leave the EU but you now have absolute proof of the British people’s opinions and be in no doubt – you can push us no further.”

But if that happened I can quite see you writing a column saying “well the British people have spoken.”

Well, no, I wouldn’t leave it that late, but I think if he called a non-binding referendum, that’s the only way he could do it. But I’d still lambast him for not doing a binding referendum.
Hah! So he can’t win on this issue can he?

No he can’t win on this issue because I know he secretly likes being a committed European.

Do you think that? Because I think that he’s far more Eurosceptic than people think.
Really? What’s your evidence for that?

I have no evidence for that beyond instinct.

Well, if he was a committed anti-European he wouldn’t have called a referendum on…

You’ve just fallen into the trap of using the phrase anti-European…

Have I?

Because that’s what all the Europhiles accuse of us, being anti-Europe. Which you’ve just said before that we’re not.

I’m not talking about me being anti-European, I’m Eurosceptic, but I’m saying that if he were an anti-European, or Europsceptic or whatever, if he had serious doubts he wouldn’t have called a post-facto referendum on Lisbon because it wouldn’t change anything. He wants a quiet life, they all do. The minute they get in, they’re taken aside by the Foreign Office and told “you just have to go along with it or it turns ugly” as of course happened to John Major. Whenever Europe gets a decision it doesn’t like it gets another referendum. When it gets a decision it does like there isn’t another referendum. I wouldn’t mind a referendum on a few things. Lets have a referendum on Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon…

But that’s what Cameron has said, that there will be a referendum in future on any further transfer of power

The trouble is that you and I both know that lots of power can be transferred under Lisbon anyway. There’s the scope for more qualified majority voting. So it’s a bit late. It’s stable doors, horse bolted.

What advice would you give to Nigel Farage now, he’s just become leader of UKIP again. What does he need to do to make progess?

I think that all Nigel has to do is wait, actually. I think that he’s got to play a waiting game and let the Conservative Party get into such a mess about Europe that he becomes the natural alternative. I think he’s also got to broaden what UKIP does. To be fair at the last election he was talking about Grammar Schools, talking about tax cuts… there was also a lot of people in the press who are determined to make no distinction between the BNP and UKIP, which is insane. UKIP is not a racist party like the BNP. It doesn’t have any views on that at all, other than being very firm on immigration.

If I were Farage, I would be talking to people on the right of the Conservative Party, both at MEP and MP level and in the House of Lords, about whether they can find common purpose in some way. This Coalition may be the beginning rather than the end of a realignment in British politics. I know Cameron seems to feel incredibly in bed with Nick Clegg, much happier than he is with some of his own party, and the logic of that is that the Conservative Party, which is of course a coalition anyway, can’t last in its present form. It may take twenty or thirty years, it may not be Nigel Farage that does that, it may be Nigel Farage’s successor. I admire Farage. I know he has a lot of detractors, I admire him. I think he’s incredibly committed, I think he’s incredibly articulate, I think he’s got great convictions. I think he’s right about a lot of things. To make UKIP a more serious party he needs to, I’m not going to say ‘take it more mainstream’ because actually I think it is quite mainstream, he needs to start convincing Conservative voters that they will never get what they want from Dave Cameron, but they’ll get it from him.

Did you vote for Alan Haselhurst in Saffron Walden at the last election?

No. I voted UKIP.

What would induce you into voting Conservative again?

Well I had a boundary change. That’s why Haselhurst was my Member of Parliament. I had always voted for Simon Burns because he’s a friend of very long standing. I voted for him when the Conservative Party was in an even worse state than this. He’s a brilliant constituency MP. I’m delighted he’s become minister of health. He’s a deeply committed public servant and I do admire him enormously. I wish he was in the cabinet. I think he’s got all the makings of a very responsible and good cabinet minister. I think he’s much more talented than a lot of people who are in the cabinet; I’ve probably destroyed his life chances by saying that. But I voted for Simon. If I’m faced with an MP who I don’t like and respect, how could I vote Conservative? The Conservative Party would have to become a lot more of a Thatcherite party. To use a vulgarism, it would have to stop being a social democrat party.

Do you think that in future there might be an opportunity for a brand new party on the right? Say Cameron decided he did want to continue the coalition even if he won an outright majority at the next election, and UKIP wasn’t making much headway, at some point there could be a Thatcherite breakaway party?

It’s so hard under our electoral system. UKIP is a Thatcherite party. I don’t know anything UKIP stands for that Mrs Thatcher wouldn’t support. We probably need to have electoral reform in order to get that, but I don’t really think I’m in favour of electoral reform. I think the first past the post system usually works quite well, in that it does usually reflect what people want. I can see people on the right getting to the stage, whether or not the AV referendum is successful, where if they feel increasingly disfranchised by the main political parties, looking for something else. There are real dangers here. We’ve seen this with the BNP. I don’t know why politicians are so reluctant to pursue lines of policy that will keep the lid on potentially dangerous situations. The way that Labour treated the white working class was despicable, and most white working class people are not racist. Most white working class people are quite happy to live next to a black man or to a Pakistani or to an Indian. However if they are marginalised and neglected by the party that should be the natural party of the white working class then that allows extremists to whip up feelings against them, and that’s exactly what Griffin did. Today all they can do is win two MEPs and they win the odd council seat, but I wouldn’t like to say that that’s the end of it. Obviously if you have PR, then anything can happen.

What’s the truth of this story that Cameron bashed on your door once?

I believe it’s completely fictional. Almost every summer go to a town in Brittany called Dinard for our holidays. Jonathan Marland has an apartment there and we often see les Marlands when we are there, and apparently Dave, I think it was in 2007, which was the only year we had not been there, Dave turned up and Marland apparently said to him: “This is ridiculous, I want to take you out for a drink with Heffer.” I would’ve been very happy to have a drink with Cameron, I would’ve got a bottle of something out of the fridge and we would have sat in my rather nice back garden there and we’d have talked about anything other than politics actually. Can I just say for the record I do admire Cameron on a personal level in many respects. I really admire the way he dealt with the illness and death of his child, which must be the most horrific thing. I’ve got two children. I can’t think of anything I want to happen less to me than a child dying. I think he showed real character and I would not seek to detract from him personally, it’s just his politics I find repellent. So I would have enjoyed sitting down for a drink with him, had he turned up, because I think that he has very admirable qualities that I would enjoy talking to him about.

When was the last time you spoke to him?

About a year ago at party conference we had a chat at the bar. We talked about the security services from memory. Anyway, apparently Marland had Dave staying with him and said let’s go and knock on Heffer’s door. And we were in Bavaria that year. So at the very time when Dave was knocking on my door in Dinard I was half-way up an alp in Bavaria.

Things could have been very different had you been in France...

I know, I’d be in the House of Lords now. That’s what seems to happen to most people who become friends of Dave, they get in the House of Lords. I’m surprised you’re not there actually, but you’re probably considered to be a little bit controversial.

I think that’s about as likely to happen as you going. Do you think you ought to consider, before you depart this world, writing a history of the county of Essex and what it’s brought to the country.

So many people have done good books on Essex. My bookshelves at home are full of books about Essex. I think it would be a book of local interest, and I don’t think I could do any better at writing a history of Essex than any of the very fine history books that already exist on that subject, so I shall content myself with reading those.

It was you that coined the phrase ‘Essex man’ wasn’t it? How did that come about?

I’m afraid it was yes. I can tell you exactly how it came about. I was with my wife on a train sitting outside Liverpool Street station, it would have been late September 1990. We were going to a very sad event, we were going to the funeral of Sir Peregrine Worsthorne’s first wife, of whom we were enormously fond. Liverpool Street was just being rebuilt in those days and there were always huge delays going in there, and as we sat patiently in our funeral garb waiting to get into the station, there was an ‘Essex man’, a ‘geezer’, sitting opposite me. He was late for work. He was on a mobile telephone, which in those days were huge, and he was conducting a very animated conversation. The entire carriage could hear, with someone in his office saying: “Yeah I can’t get in, I’m stuck, but you’ve got to do this deal and that deal, get on a phone, do this, do that, do this’, and I said to my dear wife when we got off the train, although I didn’t really want to be part of his business conversation, it was really symbolic of how things had changed. Because when I was a boy living in a little village in Essex most of the people who lived in our village were either farm labourers or they worked in industrial nurseries. Hardly anybody went to London to work. The great transformation had happened in the previous ten years to this conversation happening. People who had left school no longer had to go and work as farm labourers or in industrial nurseries, or even as office boys; they could get jobs on trading floors and could use their great natural intelligence and enterprise to make money. I said to my wife: “You know that is what’s happened. That bloke is absolutely synonymous with this change...” Anyway, we get to the funeral we’re talking to Frank Johnson about this . He said: “You’ve spotted a social phenomenon here!” I said: “What, you mean Essex man?” He said: “Write it, do it!” So I went away and wrote it, and I was astonished by the reaction to it.

It was massive wasn’t it?

It was, and you see the weekend after it appeared I had left the country; I went to Australia for a couple of months. My wife would ring me up from home saying: “Oh there’s endless stuff about ‘Essex man’ in the papers and people want to talk to you and they’re saying you’ve fled the country”, and I had fled the country but not quite in that way. You know it’s like the ‘rivers of blood’ speech, I wish people would go back and read it because it’s actually very complimentary, I mean I had huge admiration for this. I am a Thatcherite. I was delighted with what had happened to Essex. I don’t want people to be kept in servitude for the rest of their lives. I’m delighted that people could get good jobs, buy their own homes, buy shares, provide for their wives and children and what it was celebrating was that ethos that we don’t want the state to look after us, we are capable of doing it ourselves. And they were. I still live in Essex now and I love it. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

And of course it then went on to ‘Essex woman’

That was nothing to do with me.

Well, had ‘Essex man’ not happened ‘Essex woman’ wouldn’t have happened.

Well that’s probably right.

My sister, who is called Tracey, from Essex, says that she comes from Cambridge now because she can’t bear the jokes.

Well I hope I would never have been so lacking in gallantry to invent Essex girl. And I think it was Nick Farrell who did that.

At what point did the English language reach perfection beyond which further evolution is unacceptable?

When all ambiguities, in grammatical terms, were eliminated. Which I think, really, by the early nineteenth century, they were. It was when we invented the passive voice, when we stopped saying ‘a house is building’, you would say: “well building what?” We now say the house is being built. In Jane Austen, it’s always ‘the house is building’, or ‘was building’. I think that grammatically we had got it pretty well sorted out by the middle of the nineteenth century. Note I said ‘sorted out’, not ‘sorted’. We don’t want to go into this... ‘innit’. The meaning of words always evolves, and I don’t object to that. It’s one thing for words to evolve where something needs a new meaning, where you have something that there’s no word to describe it so you borrow a word to do it. What I don’t accept is that for reasons of ignorance we should use a word that we shouldn’t use. I heard a man on the BBC when I was writing the book about seven or eight months ago, say: “Yet again they are flaunting the rules”. And I thought: “You don’t mean that. You mean flouting the rules”. I remember looking it up in the Oxford English dictionary, which I invite any of you to do, and it does say that in recent years flaunt has often been used for flout. Well why? Flout’s a perfectly good word. If you can’t be bothered to use flout or can’t be bothered just to sharpen your brain to the extent that you can pick the word flout out of a box and use it instead of the word flaunt.

Are there more of those examples nowadays? People say: “I don’t want to be pacific about this but...”, and there are lots of other examples, but I don’t remember that happening... Or is this an example of old git-ism?

I think it’s old git-ism, and we shouldn’t forget about Mrs Malaprop, two hundred years ago was doing all these things. People have always got it wrong if they have the opportunity. I suppose the ubiquity of the broadcast media now means that you’ve got people, particularly on local radio stations, who maybe don’t have the level of articulacy that you and I grew up with on the home service.

Isn’t it articularity?

I think it’s articulacy. The reason I wrote that book, other than the offer of a large amount of money from the publishers, which is always nice, was that I was suddenly a bit cross with trendy academic linguists who say English is an organic language and you can basically speak it as you like. Well, really? That’s terrific until you go to apply for a job and you write a letter of application that’s illiterate or you fill in an application form that’s full of spelling mistakes, because then you say to yourself, well, this is not on really.

There was a very interesting example last week, Tom Harris, the Labour MP, got into great trouble by tweeting about how he had just thrown out a lot of job applications because people couldn’t spell.

Good for him.I think most businesses understand that if they’ve got a public interface, people who are communicating with the public need to be able to do so in a very literate manner, and I don’t blame them for not hiring people who can’t spell. And if this MP you’re mentioning was going to get this person to write letters for him, or communicate to his constituents, then I don’t blame him for not hiring people who can’t spell, because it reflects on him. It’s totally humiliating for him.


What book are you reading at the moment?

The Victorians by A. N. Wilson

Your favourite view?

The view of Dinard seen from the cliffs on the bay that is at the edge of it. There are cliffs in Dinard. If I stand on the top cliff I can look back at the view of the town and I love that view because I can only see that view when I’m on holiday, and therefore I’m happy.

Your favourite food


Anything you can’t stand

I don’t like spicy food; I don’t eat anything that comes from east of Brindisi.

Favourite rubbish television programme

The news. I don’t watch rubbish telly. I hardly watch telly. I watch Mad Men, but that’s not rubbish, that’s brilliant. It is my favourite. My favourite rubbish telly would be most news programmes because they just seem to be rubbish.

Your favourite interviewer

John Freeman on Face to Face.

Favourite music

Favourite composer is Vaughn Williams. My favourite music is classical. My favourite genre within classical is British classical music.

Political villain

Ted Heath

Political Hero, apart from Enoch Powell

There are four people I can’t differentiate because I admire them all probably for different reasons. In chronological order: Cromwell, Gladstone, Powell and Mrs Thatcher. I can’t differentiate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Podcast: 7 Days Show: Episode 53

The latest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online. In the show this week, we speak about my decision to leave political blogging and the reasons why; Nigel Evans announcing he’s gay; IPSA; Bob Ainsworth and drugs; and what Santa Claus may be bringing in his sack.

To listen to the podcast click HERE, or you can also subscribe to the show in the Tory Radio section in the podcast area of Itunes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why the Left Worship the 'God' of Wikileaks

Read my Mail on Sunday article on why the left worship Julian Assange HERE.

Keith Simpson's Christmas Reading List

Foreign Office Ministerial Reading List
Christmas 2010

As Coalition ministers and advisers prepare for the festive season there is an opportunity to catch up on books recently published and to put on one side those that might relieve the tedium of flying “austerity class” on “White Knuckle Airways”.

Amongst the rush of memoirs and instant analysis of the Blair/Brown governments and the General Election only a few really merit attention. Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair’s Chief of Staff has written The New Machiavelli How to Wield Power in the Modern World. He attempts to provide a political context to the Blair Government by drawing on Machiavelli. Apart from completing a devastating demolition job on Gordon Brown he analyses the problems faced by a Prime Minister in running No 10, relations with the civil service, cabinet members, Parliament, the media and life in general. Very superior in tone and a no apology defence of Blair, and a must read for ministers and their shadows!

Anthony Seldon has written biographies of Major and Blair, and now, in cooperation with Guy Lodge has written Brown at 10. This is the first serious attempt to analyse the Brown government and relies upon interviews with leading members of the staff inside No 10. A fair and objective account.

Lord Dannatt, as General Sir Richard Dannatt, was CGS under Blair and Brown and achieved notoriety for his outspoken public criticisms. His memoirs, Leading from the Front, shows a conventional, traditional soldier who epitomises the poor relations between some ministers and senior officers at the time. A damning rebuttal can be found in Jonathan Powell’s book.

Gordon Brown has avoided any autobiography or personal account on the lines of Blair and Mandelson, instead opting for the safer method of describing the recent economic crash and the need for new thinking at a global level – Beyond the Crash Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalisation, is one for George Osborne and Alan Jonhson.

The origins of and formation of the Coalition is addressed in two books. David Laws, a key member of the Lib Dem negotiating team, and then briefly Chief Secretary, has written 22 Days in May The birth of the Lib Dem – Conservative Coalition. Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, has attempted a broader analysis based on interviewing leading participants in 5 Days to Power The Journey to Coalition Britain.

Good diaries are a joy to dip into or read from cover to cover. Chris Mullin published two years ago A View from the Foothills and now his Decline and Fall Diaries 2005-2010 show the slow wind down to his retirement from the Commons, and whilst perceptive, and at times funny, has a sad endgame feel to it.

Bob Woodward has become the doyen of journalist/contemporary historians at documenting Presidential wars. What he did for Bush he has now repeated in Obama’s Wars The Inside Story. A depressing read of indecision and in-fighting, but then familiar to historians of Lincoln’s Washington. British Prime Ministers and the United Kingdom are noticeable by their absence.

The Cameron part of the Coalition government is less pragmatic and more interested in innovative thinking than has been assumed. One American guru who has stimulated their little grey cells is Richard Florida, an urban economist, who has argued in several books that the creative sector is the growth engine for Western economies. Colleagues wanting an insight into Mr Florida’s thinking should read his The Rise of the Creative Class (2003) and his recent The Great Reset.

Just occasionally, an academic polymath manages to go some way to explaining the development of world history. Ian Morris has written a stimulating and challenging book Why the West Rules – for Now The Patterns of History and what They Reveal About the Future. Something for members of the National Security Council.

Historical and political biography, has always been an easy option for politicians and officials and recently we have had some good examples of this genre. For over two hundred years Adam Smith has been idolised as the founder of modern economics, but as Nicholas Phillipson demonstrates in Adam Smith An Enlightened Life, Smith saw himself primarily as a philosopher rather than an economist.

There has been no shortage of biographies of Palmerston, but nearly all have been overwhelmed by the sheer length of his ministerial career and the louche private life he so much enjoyed. David Brown has immersed himself in the Palmerston archives and has written a serious biography Palmerston which covers the political life but still leaves something missing of the old reprobate himself.

It might be thought that yet another book on Lloyd George had little to say that was original. But that Grand Old Warhorse of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, would disagree. His The Great Outsider David Lloyd George, benefits from the author’s experience as a minister and knowledge of early Labour – Liberal history, even if the title of the biography doesn’t quite fit the evidence.

Macmillan, the old “One Nation Tory”, is coming back into fashion, not least in Downing Street. D R Thorpe, who wrote an outstanding biography of Eden, has now written a superb biography Supermac The Life of Harold Macmillan.

Zimbabwe has rather slipped down the list of the world’s trouble spots, but as Peter Goodwin shows in The Fear The Last Days of Robert Mugabe, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered under a brutal repression and he is convinced that any future elections will see the ZANU (PF) redeploy to return to power.

Emma Larkin who has been travelling to and secretly reporting on Burma for years, has written a compelling account of the impact of the 2008 cyclone and the incompetence and corruption of the military regime in responding to this disaster – Everything in Broken The Untold Story of Disaster Under Burma’s Military Regime.

History provides context to politics even though Arthur Balfour noted, “History may not repeat itself, but historians repeat to each other.” Challenging a number of conventional assumptions and with analogies to recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan is UnRoman Britain Exposing the Great Myth of Britannia by Miles Russell and Stuart Waycock.

Helen Castor had established her reputation as a historian with Blood and Roses The Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses. Now in her She Wolves The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth she examines four examples of English queens who attempted to rule as well as reign – Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of Valois and Margaret of Anjou. Magnificent.

Orlando Figes has established his reputation as historian of Russia, and it is this aspect of his latest book Crimea The Last Crusade which is significant. Much of what is known about the British and French side, and the military history, is well documented. But Figes brings to life the Russian perspective which has been missing from so many previous accounts.

Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire combined serious biographical history with just a touch of the bodice ripper. Now in a blockbuster of a history at nearly one thousand pages – enough reading for several long haul austerity flights – she has written about the American Civil War. A World on Fire An Epic History of Two Nations Divided is based on official archives, memoirs and diaries of over one hundred Americans who came to live in Britain, and British officials, journalists and volunteers who lived in and in many cases fought for either the Union or the Confederacy. She has managed to integrate the politics, strategy, and events of the war with the individual and personal.

Charles Townshend, who has written widely on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Ireland, has now turned his attention to the Middle East. In When God Made Hell The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq 1914-1921 he looks afresh at the reasons behind British intervention and the course of a forgotten campaign. Apart from some totally inadequate maps, this could prove of interest to members of the Iraq Inquiry.

Alastair Noble, an historian at the FCO, has turned his doctoral thesis into a book – Nazi Rule and the Soviet Offensive in Eastern Germany 1944-1945. A damning indictment of Nazi Party officials who failed to protect and evacuate German civilians and hundreds of thousands of prisoners.

One part of Europe which literally drew the short straw of history in the period 1917 to 1945 includes the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. Civil War, the Stalin purges and occupation, the Nazi War and so-called liberation have scarred this area. In Bloodlands Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder documents the appalling experiences of the peoples of this region.

Philip Mansel has an established reputation as a historian and travel writer including Constantinople City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924 (1997). His Levant Splendour and Catastrophie on the Mediterranean describes the history and culture of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut which were both cosmopolitan and centres of nationalism, although eventually Smyrna was burnt, Alexandria Egyptianised and Beirut damaged by civil war.

Two “stocking filler” books include Hugh Hunter Our Man in Orlando, Murder, Mayhem and Madness in the Sunshine State, based upon his experiences as British Consul in Florida, and Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson Parting Shots The undiplomatic final words of our departing ambassadors. Until 2006 a British ambassador leaving his post would write a valedictory despatch often circulated widely across Whitehall. Sometimes it included critical comments about the host country, and sometimes about the FCO and ministers The valedictory despatch was effectively restricted after 2006 following the leak of comments from one despatch about the “bullshit bingo” of the new management consultancy culture in Whitehall. Now, in a kind of controlled Wikileak, Parris and Bryson have edited some of these despatches by using FOIs to obtain from the National Archives a rich and amusing collection originally presented on Radio 4. They are rather dated and in some cases very contrived and overwhelmingly written by men.

Finally, a “golden oldie” from the library is The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan 1938-1945 (1971) edited by David Dilkes. Alec Cadogan was Permanent Secretary at the FO in the days when it helped to be the younger son of an earl. Acerbic, waspish and a formidable worker, Cadogan loathed Members of Parliament. In one wonderful outburst after a visit to the House of Commons he wrote “Silly bladders! How I hate Members of parliament! They embody everything that my training has taught me to eschew – ambition, prejudice, dishonesty, self-seeking, light-hearted irresponsibility, black hearted mendacity”. Fortunately that is not the view of today’s diplomats.

Keith Simpson MP
PPS to the Foreign Secretary

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Geraldine Dreadful MP Writes ... to Iain Dale

Dear Iain,

I read with delight your decision to give up weblogging. You have been a thorn in the side of the post-Balls third way project ever since it emerged from the second way project in the 1990s, and it will bring a pre-orgasmic yelp of delight to all good socialists in the country today to see you leave the glistening and profitable pantheon of blogging to concentrate on the obscurity and financial ruin of publishing and broadcasting.

When I was informed of your decision to stop writing your disgusting website by my constituency agent, we all decided to converge on the Neil and Glenys Kinnock European Bandstand Coffee Stall to arrange the party, to celebrate your decision. Here is what we've arranged.

The Sickle East Young Socialist Cadets team will host a cake giveaway (far more egalitarian than your tory cake 'sales') in the bandstand next week. The Leonid Brezhnev Memorial Brass Band will be performing showtunes in your honor in the Working Women's Club (Remedy by Little Boots was hard for them to learn but it'll be alright on the night). This will highlight your illiberal homophobia.

The Barbara Castle Women's Body Image Working Group will hold a hilarious stand up comedy evening being honest or rude about Ann Widdecombe.

I just thought you'd like to know how much we're glad you've stopped. Fucker.

Geraldine Dreadful MP

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Daley Dozen: A Tribute

1. Simon Clark wasn't happy when Iain used to get there before him.
2. Josh Halliday has a few words about Iain's decision to quit.
3. Anthony Barnett says au revoir to Iain Dale.
4. Tory Radio reckons this is worse than when the West Wing ended.
5. Guido says goodbye in his own special way.
6. have a few thoughts on Iain's departure.
7. A Lanson Boy proves even the Lib Dems like Mr Dale.
8. Anna Racoon wouldn't have got involved without a certain someone.
9. Tim Montgomerie doesn't think the Right is in good shape.
10. Subrosa isn't surprised, but has still been inspired.
11. Dizzy Thinks got his prediction right.
12. Will Heaven thinks the Tory blogosphere may be imploding.

Bonus: A little something from Danny Finklestein behind the paywall.

The Time Has Come to Stop Blogging (And Party Politics)

Well, I am afraid this is the blogpost where I tell you that I am giving up blogging. This decision has been coming for some time and was nearly made a month ago, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it then. Well, today I can.

There's no single reason, but let me try to explain as best I can why I can no longer blog in the way I have been doing over the last five years. First of all, let me say what it's NOT about. It's got nothing to do with the Conservatives being in power. There's this myth that blogging in government is less interesting than in opposition. I've never bought that argument. I think I have been quite open in making clear when I think the coalition have got things wrong, but I accept that is not the perception, and probably never will be.

The truth is, I no longer enjoy blogging and I think that this has been evident for a few months now to my readers. I hate the backbiting that goes along with it. I hate the character assassination that is permanently present. I no longer enjoy the pressure of feeling I have to churn out four or five pieces every day. I used to enjoy sitting in front of the TV at home in the evenings and writing blogposts at the same time. I can't do that any longer as I am on the radio every weekday evening. And when I am in the office during the day I have two companies to run. Something has to give.

And if I am honest, I now feel that my blogging is having a negative effect on various aspects of my business and broadcasting life. For instance, yesterday I felt, for various reasons, I had to slightly caveat what I really wanted to say about Tom Baldwin's appointment. Another post in the last few days has caused an unfortunate situation too with a potential advertising client. My blog is indeed a personal plaything, independent of Total Politics or LBC, but the reality is that this is not how many in the outside world see it. And I now need to recognise that.

I'm working 9am to 10pm five days a week. I enjoy it. I relish it. I thrive on it. I'm running a very successful publishing company which is, I believe, on the brink of great success. I've achieved a lifetime's ambition of having my own daily radio talk show. I am not about to put either of those things at risk. And frankly, I'm not going to put my health at risk either. As I said above, something has to give in this life I am now leading, and I am afraid it is the blog.

However - and this is where I row back a little - I still want to have an outlet where I can share my thoughts with the world as and when I feel like it. So the blog will still be here. The Daley Dozen will continue, courtesy of Grant Tucker's efforts. And I will write bits from time to time when I want to, as opposed to when I feel I must. But in practice those occasions will be few and far between for the foreseeable future.

In the new year I'll be launching a new website which will replace this blog and my current personal site. It's been in the 'building' stage for some time, but should be ready to go during January.

I have also decided to give up all party political activities, as they too have hampered aspects of my business and broadcasting career in the past. I am, and will remain, a Conservative supporter, but that's as far as it goes.

Finally, I'd like to thank all my readers for sticking with me through good times and bad over the last five years. To the many enemies I have made along the way, I'll just say in a very Nixon-esque manner, just rejoice in the fact that you won't have me to kick around any longer. For the moment, anyway. For the most part, I have enjoyed the blogging experience and made a lot of friends through it.

Thank you, and Au revoir.

PS I shall still be tweeting HERE.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Boris Johnson wants an apology.
2. Political Scrapbook reckons the BNP should await a lawsuit.
3. David Skelton is against using water cannons against protesters.
4. Matt Wardman has an example of plagiarism.
5. Peter Hoskin thinks Eric Pickles may have instigated a blame game.
6. Helen Duffett does not see the progressive side of Labour.
7. Prodicus appreciates the fine political analysis of students.
8. Ed West is fed up of the Islamist hotbeds our universities have become.
9. Alex Evelyn on the hypocrisy of socialists
10. Chris says disagrees with Bob Russell.
11. Douglas Carswell has a few facts for the Europhiles.
12. Gordon MacMillan asks who is Nick Clegg?

On My LBC Show Tonight From 7pm...

On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm ASLEF have called a tube strike for Boxing Day and a strike on London Midland for 23 December. Are the unions becoming strike happy?

8pm Educational Maintenance Allowances: valuable necessity or a luxury in hard economic times?

9pm LBC Book Club with Steve Richards, author of Whatever it Takes: The Real Story of Gordon Brown & New Labour, and Patrick Dillion, author of The Story of Britain.

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

Ed Picks His Gamekeeper

I have to say I am gobsmacked at Ed Miliband's choice of Director of Communications, Tom Baldwin. It seems I am not alone. Three seasoned lobby journalists have rung me with their not wholly complimentary views. They've used phrases like "accident waiting to happen", "what on earth were they thinking?" and "you can't say Ed Miliband isn't a risk taker." Indeed not.

There's no doubt, Baldwin is a very talented writer and has been a very good story getter. But as I wrote back in February 2006...

... he was considered to be Alastair Campbell's chief missionary on earth. If he wrote a story you could be sure that Big Al had tipped him the wink. He also had another mission. To do down the Conservative Party at every opportunity. Hardly a week would go by where he didn't find, or would be given, some little snippet of information which he would sensationalise beyond all recognition... Baldwin was one political journalist I tried to make sure I avoided.

When you're the Director of Communications for the main opposition party, your key asset has to be that you're believable - that you really are "your master's voice". It will be interesting to see how he moves from poacher to gamekeeper.

UPDATE: Tim Montgomerie has had the same experience of Mr Baldwin as me.

UPDATE: How odd. Guido is now reporting the job has gone to the Mirror's Bob Roberts. No, not THAT one. UPDATE: This is a separate job.

UPDATE: The Daily Mail has got in on the act.

UPDATE: David Seymour is equally unimpressed.

Freedom for Smokers: Sign the Petition

Forest, the pro smoking lobby group have made a video to explain why the ban on brand advertising on cigarette packets and a ban on cigarette vending machine on is wrong.

I happen to agree with them, even though I am a non smoker and hate smoking. But I do believe in the freedom of the individual and that individuals are perfectly capable of making up their minds on what they want to buy and why.

Those who wish to ban cigarette advertising actually wish to ban cigarettes. Well, that's a consistent position. The government's position is not consistent, though. They want their cake and they want to eat it. Or should I say, they want to discourage smoking but at the same time, they are gagging for the tax revenues smokers provide.

I'm particularly anti the ban on brand advertising as it treats people like idiots. Individuals are capable of rational decision making. They don't need government to do it for them.

Sign the Forest petition HERE.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Podcast: 7 Days Show: Episode 52

The latest edition of the Seven Days Show is now online. In the show this week we discuss the vote on tuition fees and its implications; the latest spate of violence and what can be done; prison and whether it works; whether localism would mean community sentences would be rejected; will the Lib Dems cease to be; whether tuition fees have an implication on th AV referendum; whether benefits should be used to send to people’s families abroad; and finally Jeremy Hunt and a rather naughty word.

To listen to the podcast click HERE, or you can also subscribe to the show in the Tory Radio section in the podcast area of Itunes.

The LibDems May Cease To Be

Twenty years ago, Margaret Thatcher made a speech to the Conservative Party Conference and said that the LibDems were like a dead parrot. They had ceased to be. They have met their maker. Well, she may have been slightly ahead of her time.

Today, we learn that LibDem support has collapsed. Only 54% of their 2010 voters intend to vote for them next time. 51% of LibDem voters want a Labour government next time. These figures come from a poll and research carried out by Lord Ashcroft, which have been published in today's Sunday Telegraph. Three thousand people were surveyed and eight focus groups were held.

I have long wondered what strategy the LibDems could adopt to get themselves out of this mess. I guess Nick Clegg is playing a long game and is trusting the public to give the LibDems the credit in 2015 for the success of the coalition. If indeed it does turn out to be a success. And it's a big 'if'. I hadn't expected the LibDems to crumble or split so quickly, I must admit.

It seems that the LibDems may soon be struggling for their very existence. And it may well be David Cameron who comes to their rescue and offers some sort of electoral pact. I genuinely think that is now a very real prospect, and for many Tories it will happen over their dead bodies. Meanwhile, the Labour Party is sitting back and lapping it up. Ed Miliband is criticised as a "do nothing" leader. But you have to say, if others are digging a hole quickly, what's the point of picking up another shovel to help them?

Download Lord Ashcroft's report HERE and read the Telegraph story HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Please Stand

What an absolutely fantastic arrangement of the National Anthem.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Students: Uncover Their Faces

Here's a suggestion. On the next student riot, the Police should make clear that anyone covering their face with a mask or balaclava will be removed from the area. It's clear that they are the ones largely responsible for the violence and attacks on the Police, and I suspect most of them aren't even students.

When the English Defence League holds its demos they are not, I am told, allowed to cover their faces.

What we saw yesterday was wanton hooliganism. If that had happened outside a football ground there would have been mass arrests. Yesterday, there were only 22. Why? I believe the Police showed remarkable restraint in the circumstances.

I have defended the students in the past, and will continue to defence the overwhelming majority who wanted a peaceful protest. But it is not possible to defend anyone who throws a snooker ball at the police, smashes windows, pulls a policewoman off a horse, hurls concrete blocks at police, sets light to the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, defaces the Churchill statue, hangs off a flag on the Cenotaph. Yesterday, it was not just the odd person who behaved like a hooligan. Hundreds did.

This morning we should question the NUS about why they allowed the march to be diverted from the route agreed with the Metropolitan Police. Perhaps they have forfeited the right to hold further demonstrations if they are unable to control their own members. Aaron Porter, now known as the smuggest man in Britain, did himself little favours yesterday. This Labour stooge was found out on Question Time. Londoners have lost patience with students now and will not stand for a repeat performance. If the NUS announces it intends to hold another demo, the authorities should tell them they have outstayed their welcome and it won't be permitted. This isn't me turning into an authoritarian. The right to protest should be protected - but when it is abused, society has to turn around and say 'no longer'.

Yesterday on my programme, I received an email from an American listener, whose brother has a flight to London today. He wanted to know if he thought it was safe for him to come.

And then listen to this interview I did towards the end of my LBC programme last night with a lady called Shanai from Barnes. She had taken her two young children on their first trip into central London. They got caught up in the mob which attacked Prince Charles. Her kids were totally freaked out and now don't want to go into central London again.

Listen HERE (4 mins).

UPDATE: The Daily Mail has some shocking pictures from yesterday HERE.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Thursday

1. Guy Opperman publishes a letter from a student constituent.
2. Nick Pickles remembers Tony Blair and tuition fee reform.
3. Paul Flynn told you so.
4. Hopi Sen wants the Labour Party to take an extended Coalition seriously.
5. Tom Jackson doesn't understand the student mentality.
6. The Ludovico Technician on the immorality of EMA.
7. Janet Daley thinks this may be the end of the Liberal Democrats.
8. Andrew Gibson looks at our future in Afghanistan.
9. James Cleverly isn't surprised Labour choose RMT over Londonders.
10. Jonathan Wynne Jones on the tipping point for the religion in Britain.
11. Richard Stay wonders how long John Bercow will last.
12. And finally some light relief from Matt Wardman.

What is the Point of Simon Hughes?

What exactly is the point of Simon Hughes? Is he just a giant conscience on a stick?


And In At Number 367 is Gordon Brown...

It's interesting tha Gordon Brown's book, even after all the publicity of the last few days. has only reached number 367 in the Amazon bestsellers chart. By any normal rights it would be at least in the top 50 by now, if not in the top 10. Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were both number one bestsellers. OK, this book is not a memoir, but I would have expected it to have reached the top 100. Bear in mind Peter Watt's book got to 52 and both David Laws and Rob Wilson's books got inside the top 200.

I think Simon & Schuster, Gordon Brown's publishers will be a tad disappointed by this performance. I would be if I were them.

Merci, Ken

Only Ken Livingstone could have agreed to French being given priority language status at the London Olympics. According to documents released under a Freedom of Information request by The Spectator, French will take precedence at medal ceremonies and on all signs displayed throughout the capital. The British capital. Merci, Ken.

How Many LibDems Will Take the Coward's Way Out?

It will be very interesting to see how the LibDems vote this afternoon. We already know that 20 of their 57 MPs will support the government line. Well, it would be rude not to if you're members of the government, wouldn't it? But what of the rest? I can understand those LibDem MPs who vote in the No lobby. Some will do it out of conviction, others will feel morally obliged to by the pledge that they signed up to. One or two might even do it just to be bloody minded.

The one thing I will never understand is for an MP to abstain on this legislation. What possible rationale can there be for withholding your vote on what has become one of the great issues of the day? You either agree with it you don't. To sit on the fence may be something a LibDem is used to doing but it is a complete copout. What's the point of being an MP if you can't have the balls to vote one way or another? No wonder they paint their logo yellow. For any LibDem MP who abstains this afternoon is a coward. For instance, let's take Stephen Williams, a LibDem MP for Bristol, who in the last Parliament was their Higher Education spokesman. I like him, he's a nice guy. But this morning he has said he will abstain. Er, why? As the party's former higher education spokesman it is impossible to believe he has not view on the issue. As I keep repeating, to govern is to choose. Not to choose gives the impression of not being able to govern.

So come on LibDems, have the courage of your convictions. At least do us the favour of voting one way or the other. If you abstain, you are taking the coward's way out.

PS The same applies to Tory MPs too, as someone will no doubt point out in the comments.

Geraldine Dreadful Writes to ... Julian Assange

Dear Mr Assange,

First of all, allow me to thank you for visiting the UK in your efforts to promote yourself the most recent Wikipedia revelations to the world. The achievements you have made in creating the most advanced online user-created encyclopaedia are entirely immense, and some, if not all my research, for debates in the House of Commons has been conducted using it.

I am perplexed, however, that the US and UK governments seem to be trying so hard to shut WikiPedia down. I appreciate that much of the content is controversial (the section on Tony Blair is notoriously thin on conversations I had with him), but in my view, none of the material I have ever seen on WikiPedia would constitute a threat to governments.

In fact, I was surprised to find no mention at all of the secret underground continuity of government bunker in Sickle East, underneath the Michael Foot Memorial Fallen Comrades Tea Dance hall, which I received a briefing on from that nice Mr Daniels, the undercover agent from MI5, who pretends to work for the water board, just after my election.

Anyway, I just wanted to say how grateful I was to you for visiting our country, and on behalf of the people of Sickle and Hammer East, enjoy your stay. If you happen to venture northwards and feel like addressing a group of fans of your Encyclopedia, please do consider contacting 'Mad' Eric Whipsnade at the Hammer East Leonid Brezhnev Memorial Unions Club. Eric would like some recognition for his entry on Post Bickerstaffe Anarcho Syndicalism in Early Years Education.

Yours sincerely,

Geraldine Dreadful MP

Hattip to Ben Archibald at

Deporting's Too Good For Him

So the son of a Tunisian diplomat has been given a suspended six week jail sentence of kicking and punching a labrador puppy more than twenty times.

Some may hope the same thing happens to him, so he then knows how it feels.

But the real question is why is this lame excuse for a human being still in the country? Why isn't he being deported?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Daley Dozen: Wednesday

1. Thomas Byrne and Anton Howes defend tuition fee reform.
2. Direct Democracy has a five step guide to AV.
3. Man in a Shed makes it clear, Labour is the enemy of students.
4. Nadine Dorries praises the end to mickey mouse courses.
5. Alex Singleton wants CCHQ to stop betraying the eurosceptics.
6. Political Reboot thinks students are protesting about the wrong issue.
7. Daniel Hannan explains why Obama isn't fond of Britain.
8. Better Nation takes a look at the Lockerbie Cables.
9. Simon Emmett has the facts on fees.
10. Wat Tyler thinks the unthinkable.
11. John McTernan wonders what Blair would make of the prison policy.

12. Labour List has footage of Sarah Teather on the run.

Tonight On My LBC Show...

On my LBC show tonight from 7...

7.10pm If you were advising a LibDem MP on how to vote on tuition fees, what would you say? Guest: Don Foster MP

8pm Sepp Blatter reckons we are a nation of bad losers. Fair comment or another FIFA insult to the English? Guest: Kelvin Mackenzie.

9pm LBC Parliament with Mark Field MP, Heidi Alexander MP and Caroline Pidgeon AM

You can listen to LBC on 97.3 FM in Greater London, DAB Radio in the Midlands, parts of the North & North West, Glasgow & Edinburgh, Sky Channel 0112, Virgin Media Channel 973 or stream live at

To take part in the programme call 0845 60 60 973, text 84850, Email iain AT lbc DOT co DOT uk or tweet @lbc973

If you miss the programme and want to download it as a podcast (minus the ads!) click HERE. There is a £2 monthly charge but you have access to the entire LBC archive and schedule.

It's all Kant ... Or...

In these trying days for MPs beset by judges, parliamentary functionaries and journalists (whose own expenses are above reproach) let us hear it for the heroes and heroines of Hansard who last night had to report and transcribe the German pronunciation of the word Kant. As the Commons loses its fun and fearlessness there can be an occasional moment of cheer and light especially from the Hansard team so well trained in the school of Jim Naughtie!

EU Referendum Bill Debate Hansard 7 December 2010

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): We have had a menagerie-type debate: Pandora's boxes have been opening, Trojan horses have been jumping out of them and there have been mice of different sizes to contemplate. But there is a broad division-between Labour Members, along with the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), and most of the speakers on the Government Benches. They have a rather Hobbesian view of Europe, in which there is an undeclared war of all against all. I take the view that Immanuel Kant-or, as it should be pronounced properly in German, "Immanuel Kunt"-put forward in his perpetual peace argument. He argued that Europe needs a construct of rule of law, a Lockean Europe, in which we can live together in perpetual peace, as he thought. It has taken perhaps 200 years to get that far, but that is my version of Europe rather than the permanently negative one where it is Britain contra mundum, about which we hear so much from the Government Benches.
Austin Mitchell: As my right hon. Friend is representing his views as those of this side of the House-I do not think that they are-may I ask whether his own constituents are Kantians or Lockeans?
Mr MacShane: Perhaps I shall leave the reply to my old friend, Jim Naughtie.

Honestly, the Young People of Today...

Some of you, who were customers at Politico's back in the good old days, will remember a huge mural that we had on the wall above the biography section. We've just hung it on the wall in the Total Politics office, where it has caused some consternation among certain members of our admittedly teenage staff. "Who's the one above Lenin?," they ask. Sigh. "Is it Alan Sugar?" asked Grant Tucker...

Eventually, Sam Carter, who is our new publishing editor came up with the right answer, while the others hung their heads in shame. "Did none of you do any modern history at school?" I asked in a head shaking sort of way? Shane drew me a diagram to display his historical knowledge.

And they say educational standards have risen since I went to school...
PS And if you don't know who it is either, click on Comments below and the answer is revealed in the first comment.