Tag Archives: iain-dale

Derek Conway and the passions of Iain Dale

A few points…

Roger Gale describes the Conway incident as a “witch hunt“. One has to wonder why the Standards and Privileges Committee would do such a thing if that were the case, since if Gale is to believed surely all MPs would be liable for the same treatment. Surely mutual interest would prevent such a witch hunt from ever happening? MPs don’t look like they are in the mood to make something out of nothing at the moment, particularly given the daily grind of “sleaze” churning out of the tabloid press on a daily basis. Plus, if Conway is being persecuted, why the apology? Why doesn’t he stand his ground?

Guido is somewhat more on the money by implying that Cameron is dithering here. We’ve had the admission of guilt from Conway; why does he still have the Tory whip?

Over at Iain Dale’s Diary, Iain makes the perfectly valid point that he is not about to rat on a friend. I sympathise – really I do. But given that Iain has always been very quick to point the finger on funding scandals himself – he not only wrote the book on Labour sleaze, he’s published two editions of it – I hope he will accept some responsibility for his friend’s downfall. The reason the outcry has been so great is that unlike most of the current crop of Labour sleaze stories (but like the Abrahams and cash for peerages incidents), this is a genuine scandal. By over emphasising these, Conway’s fate to some extent has been sealed. You can’t brag about your growing influence with one hand (which I don’t question), while denying you helped create the political weather for this with the other, Iain.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve no doubt occasionally crossed the line, I try my best on this blog not to get carried away by ‘sleaze’ – not least of all because I happen to think the general Lib Dem attitude to our own recent funding scandal is a mite complacent. We should be wary of enjoying these too much because we end up creating impossible standards that no-one can live by. People like Wendy Alexander, Alan Johnson and yes, possibly even Peter Hain (haven’t made my mind up fully on that one – as cock ups go, this was a pretty extreme case), ought to be able to pay a fine and move on. The idea that ministerial careers should be destroyed for the misreporting of a few hundred quid is absurd.

Iain Dale may be onto something – but at what price to his soul?

I’ve just been reading the two interviews that Iain Dale has just flagged up about his new Politico magazine. It’s an interesting business model – effectively The House Magazine with bite.

The House Magazine has to be one of the most interminable publications going. Ostensibly a way of hoovering up lobby cash in the form of advertising they rarely bother to make their content interesting at all. I was particularly outraged earlier this year at work to get a phonecall from one of its sister publications offering to “sell” us space for an article on one of our campaigns which they had got a government minister to write an article criticising. They were effectively blackmailing a small NGO and if we didn’t happen to be both better at communicating with MPs directly than them and keenly aware of that fact, we might have fallen for it (we won the campaign).

I don’t know any MPs who admit to avidly reading the House beyond the merest of occasional flickings through – God knows they shouldn’t have the time. But a slimmer, easier read might be more of a likely prospect.

The thing that I’m most keenly aware of with blogging is that although very few people read websites such as this, it tends to be political obsessives who, relatively speaking and with plenty of exceptions, are relatively high up the greasy poll compared with the average punter. It’s one of the reasons I can only laugh when people decide to lecture me about making this website more accessible “to the voter”. I don’t have any obligation to reach out to the voter and it isn’t my job to. Even Iain’s website with its 10x bigger readership is consumed by comparatively few “normal” people. With all due respect to the people out there who do indeed strive to use their blogs as a communications tool with their community (and I’m not saying that’s a wasted exercise as local communities have movers and shakers as much we have at a national level), blogging with an overt focus on trying to appeal to the average voter is doomed to failure.

But talking to the “right” people can be very effective indeed. If that’s Iain’s pitch, I can see him selling a lot of advertising space at the expense of Dod’s. Of course, that’s when the tricky part starts. Iain is very quick to emphasise that the magazine will be cross-party, but what will he be doing to ensure that the advertising tail doesn’t end up wagging the dog? If you don’t have a six-figure lobbying budget you don’t exist as far as Dod’s is concerned. One of the things I’ve liked most about 18DS is that it opened the door to a much wider range of voices. Will The Politico have a similar philosophy?

Iain Dale perfectly sums up what’s wrong with the Conservative Party

Pravdale writes:

LibDem Voice should have been in its element today. But it hasn’t posted anything since the result 2.39pm and a Clegg Youtube video. Aren’t our yellow friends happy? Are they all getting hammered down the pub? Where’s the analysis, where’s the agenda for the future? This is why ConservativeHome is still streets ahead of its competition.

I love the way he talks about the idea of people celebrating in the pub (actually Planet Hollywood I understand) like it is a bad thing and a far worse use of time than blogging (and yes, I do appreciate the irony of sitting at home typing this). This perfectly illustrates why the average member of the Conservative Party might as well come from Mars as far as most normal people are concerned. What a strange little world they live in!

It also profoundly misunderstands the nature of Lib Dem blogging. Unlike the Tories, we don’t all hover around our hive hoping that Queen Montgomerie might deign to give us some royal jelly. There’s plenty of analysis to be found on Lib Dem blogs if you actually care to look. Unlike the Tory blogosphere, the hub is not the be-all and end-all of our web-presence.

18 Doughty Street: crawling into the chrysalis

I’ve just got back from appearing on what it turns out was the last ever Blogger TV. 18 Doughty Street is, well, the best way I can think of putting it is that it is about to enter a chrysalis from which it will spend the next couple of months changing into something else. Whether it emerges into a beautiful butterfly or a moth remains to be seen.

In all seriousness, I’m pleased for them. It certainly does appear that this is a move forward. Their studios are to move to Westminster, they’re planning to step up the news content and concentrate more on the on demand side and less on the live side. All of these moves seem sensible – I for one have never watched it live but will frequently dip into the on demand service.

The channel itself has changed significantly over the past year. 12 months ago it was all about attack ads and most of their presenters were so embedded within the Conservative Party that they might as well have been called Thatcher. But I’ve been very conscious of the fact that over the past few months since I’ve been going on (which thinking about it has been pretty much a year) the times when I’ve been outnumbered 4-to-1 by Tories has become much less the norm. There has been a self-conscious and sincere attempt to bring it out of the Tory TV image it had to start with. Equally self-conscious and sincere has been the attempt to bring new political voices to the force – not just bloggers – and to talk about political issues at a level of depth that you simply don’t find on mainstream television.

My personal highlight? Going on the Doughty News Hour with Donal Blaney to discuss the Human Rights Act. It’s up to others to judge who won that particular fight, but I certainly enjoyed every minute of it.

My personal low point? Erm, possibly tonight, where I totally over-stretched discussing the Lib Dem leadership election and exploring my own views on air rather than consolidating my position with two Conservative commentators beside me itching to tear my argument to shreds. In short, doing exactly what I was bemoaning about Nick Clegg doing on GMTV this Sunday – live television is not the place to navel gaze! I blame the pork stew I had at the Duke of Cornwall in Islington just before. Never do Doughty Street on a full stomach; you need to be hungry!

Homeopaths resort to legal action to cure all headaches

A few weeks ago, the political blogosphere united to condemn the actions of Alisher Usmanov and his lawyers for attempting to shut down Craig Murray’s blog. We were right to do so; what made Usmanov’s actions particularly reprehensible was the way he used the law to intimidate Murray’s hosting company while cowardly avoiding a fight with Murray’s publisher who had already printed the allegations two years previously.

Now, Ben Goldacre draws our attention to another attempt to shut down a blogger. This time the fight is between a scientist and the Society of Homeopathy.

Andy Lewisallegations seem quite straightforward. The Society has clear guidelines and Andy has what appears to be relatively clear evidence that one of its members is in breach of these guidelines. This isn’t about homeopaths making exaggerated claims about curing head colds to middle class Brits either, but involves potentially dangerous attempts to market homeopathy as a cure for malaria in Kenya.

Andy Lewis demanded answers: the response was a writ issued to his hosting company who subsequently took down the offending article. Sound familiar?

Sound familiar? It should do. There’s a growing list of bloggers who are protesting about this. So come on then Tom, Iain, Guido, Tim and others, how about it?

Blog Labour’s lost

At Labour conference and struggling to type using a godawful metal keyboard which appears to not have a control key (clearly they have a problem with Labour delegates having even that level of power). Blogging will be lighter than last week, at least until I figure out how to access the free internet access.

Meanwhile, you might want to visit my guide to Lib Dem bloggers over at Our Kingdom.

Oh, and I get a name check on Iain Dale’s guide to political blogging on the Torygraph. It’s all gravy.

Anyway, Britain’s Got Talent Finalists the Kombat Breakers are about to start playing in the foyer so time I headed off in the opposite direction.

EXCLUSIVE: I’m confused about who is a Tory and who is Labour

Can someone sort this out for me. Earlier today, Pravdale was claiming that the Tories had claimed another Labour scalp in Ealing, but Comical Tommy is claiming this is balls. Yet Pravdale still hasn’t issued a correction – which in fairness to him he usually does do relatively promptly. Either way, this potentially explosive story doesn’t appear to have had the same impact as Shappgate, which is odd.

So who is telling the truth?

In some respects, this is entirely understandable. I can’t tell the difference between Tories and Labour at the best of times these days, yadda yadda yadda…

EXCLUSIVE: Splitting and spinning

The ongoing farces within the Labour and Tory camps about their respective Ealing Southall candidate selections are quite eye-watering.

First we hear allegations (still undenied, as far as I’ve been able to see) that Tony Lit only approached the Tories to be their candidate after the Lib Dems rejected him. Shortly after that, a disgruntled Conservative Vice Chair defects. Then we hear that not only is Labour abandoning its all-women shortlist (as I’ve blogged before, Labour uses the option of all-women shortlists as a tool to get cronies selected and non-cronies blocked) but has blocked a viable local female candidate. And now it turns out that their selected candidate is being accused of running a dirty tricks campaign. And that’s just in four days!

The other interesting thing to emerge is that Grant Shapps appears to think that the way to win elections is not to get on with the hard work of campaigning (their FIRST campaign day is still in three days time, remember!), but to embark on some kind of dirty protest, smearing his opponents left, right and centre. One small flaw in his plan: very few Ealing Southall residents actually read Iain Dale’s blog. It is notable that his allegations don’t appear to be attracting any wider attention. The one thing he appears to have achieved is to make me think of Tom Watson as less of a shit in comparison. Significant though that may be, it is hardly much of a boost to the Tory campaign.

As a side point, it is notable at how worried the Tories clearly are about the Lib Dems at the moment. A good example yesterday was Iain Dale’s attack on Ming’s performance on PMQs. A blatant attempt to unspin what was generally considered to be a good performance, it has left him looking quite silly. It’s notable, for example, at how relatively unconcerned he was about Cameron’s performance. His obsession is trying to put Ming in as bad a light as possible gets the better of him too often. It’s just such a shame that so many people within the Lib Dems seem to think it is objective analysis.

On a slightly more serious note, one thing I’ve begun to notice is that the political blogosphere is starting to get more shrill, just as it was in the run up to the 2005 General Election campaign. I admit to being partially responsible for this – I have a party to defend like anyone else (and things like that poster lottery smear really warrant rebuttal). But it does leave me wondering whether this blog is sustainable and whether discretion will force me eventually to stop, just as I did in 2004-5. Hmmm…

…oh, and yes, the “EXCLUSIVE” is satirical again. Sorry.

From the party that brought you “Mark Hunter is a rapist”

We are to believe, of course, that there is no smoke without fire. So, with that in mind, it is entirely possible that Grant Shapps has dredged up some disgruntled lunatic who will testify that the Lib Dems run secret poster lotteries.

Of course, for it to be actually true, you’d have to be able to find some actual evidence. An entry form, for example, or some promotional literature. The alternative theory is that the entire thing was run by word of mouth and that people were putting up posters purely because someone who they had never met before assured them sufficiently that they were “on the list”. All sounds quite fanciful doesn’t it?

Of course, the Tories are well versed in the use of the groundless smear. People will recall that in 2005, they put out a leaflet in the Cheadle by-election which strongly implied that the Lib Dem candidate (and now MP) was a rapist. You would have thought that after that little trick backfired (even Conservative Home condemned it), they’d be a little cautious about playing similar games in future. Clearly not.

Doughty news values (UPDATED)

Originally posted May 29, 2007 @ 18:16

Despite coming from a different political galaxy, I wish 18 Doughty Street every success if nothing else than for the fact that if it works, it opens up the possibility of other, more politically sympathetic, rivals. It really needs to work out what its agenda is however. One minute they are producing rightwing attack ads, the next they are bending over backwards to improve the political balance of their programmes.

A related problem is highlighted by Iain Dale’s recent outburst about Greenpeace refusing to share studio space with Dominic Lawson. Now, personally I’m a bit of a Greenpeace-sceptic and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wryly amused to hear them pontificate about refusing to debate with people who do not accept the “scientific reality” (Greenpeace, and FoE’s agenda is only tangentially related to scientific fact and always has been). But the tactic is sound: in debates where there is no common ground there is little point in taking part and legitimising your opponent’s views. If Greenpeace don’t want to waste their time, why should they? There are certainly times in my own life where, retrospectively, I’d wished I’d done the same. When I went on the Daily Politics with Laurence Boyce last week, I made this very calculation (and concluded that the cat was already out of the bag).

I fear that Iain gives the game away by criticising this decision by labeling Greenpeace as “Enviro-fascists”. Leaping from wanting a ‘balanced debate’ to slamming one side as being ‘fascist’ rather suggests that Greenpeace were being set up. Their biggest crime was to call Iain’s bluff.

The big irony is that the BBC, that most hated of media empires, do this sort of thing all the time. It is epitomised by programmes like You and Yours which regularly features articles in which an issue that is plainly barking mad is given large amounts of airtime, justified purely on the basis that they have a token rational human being on as well to declare it to be nonsense. More recently of course there was that Panorama about Wi Fi which was ‘balanced’ only in as much as the fact that it had people arguing both sides of the argument. This sort of lopsided ‘balance’ – where you claim that the views of an individual are of equal weight to the established scientific consensus – only ever has one purpose: to undermine confidence in that consensus. Sometimes it is due to simply sloppy thinking; sometimes there is an agenda behind it. Either way, the effect is the same. At its worse, we have examples such as the MMR scare, which has brought back near-extinct childhood diseases with a vengeance (I write as someone who caught the mumps – the fucking mumps! – aged 30. Thanks a bunch, Andrew).

What I don’t understand is why 18 Doughty Street are pursuing this BBC definition of ‘balance’. Polemic I can understand, genuine balance which looks at the weight of evidence and recognises the scientific consensus would be even better. But surely this mealy-mouthed, insincere “one the one hand… on the other…” drivel is precisely what 18 Doughty Street was set up to fight?

My suspicion is that a lot of people who rail against the BBC’s news bias have a very selective analysis. Where the BBC’s news values correspond with the Daily Mail’s (and they do, increasingly so), they are all for it.

UPDATED: Iain has now moderated his tone following a chat with Greenpeace’s Ben Stewart. Not by much though. I confess this para may have been in the original, but it did stand out to me this morning:

Anyone who seeks to constrain debate on this hugely important issue is adopting the tactics of crypto-fascists. They act as if scientists are in one hundred per cent agreement. They are not. The hubris and condescension in this email is almost beyond parody.

No they don’t. They do act as if the scientific community is in 90% agreement, which it is, a fact which people like Lawson and Iain Dale consistently downplay. Ben Stewart stated in his original email that he would be happy to debate the issue with Bjorn Lomborg and Dominic Lawson isn’t a scientist. Finally, it is the standard tactic of anti-fascists. Why hasn’t 18 Doughty Street had Nick Griffin on yet if they are so concerned about no platform policies?