Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part V: Iain Dale

(Iain Dale)
Iain Dale was born in 1962 and was educated at the University of East Anglia. In the past he has owned the political bookshop and publishing company, Politicos, and is now the owner of politicos.co.uk, the online political bookstore.
He is also a pundit and broadcaster and Conservative Party politician. He has worked as Chief of Staff for David Davis (the former candidate for the Conservative Party leadership), and in 2005 stood for Parliament in Norfolk North. His blog, www.iaindale.blogspot.com was once nominated by The Guardian newspaper for the award of "Political Blog of the Year"


What made you decide to start blogging?

I was visiting a friend in Washington in early 2002 and he told me about blogging. Within half an hour I had set one up courtesy of those lovely people at Blogger. I’ve been blogging on and off ever since. I had to take a 6 month sabbatical during the Tory leadership contest but since I restarted the blog in December 2005 it’s gone from strength to strength and I’m told it’s now the second most popular blog in the country.

What is your best blogging experience?

I’m tempted to say that it occurred this weekend at the Conservative Future conference when I was approached by a six foot blonde who said: “Are you Iain Dale? I think you’re a legend!” Or maybe she said ‘leg end’… Seriously, I think it was the moment I realized that my blog could influence the agenda. This happened when I wrote a post urging the mainstream media to take up the story of Cherie Blair signing the Hutton report for auction. I couldn’t understand why no one was writing about it. Several political editors told me then that they wouldn’t have done anything further had they not read my blog post. It brought home to me that the whole of the Westminster lobby was reading my blog, along with many MPs and opinion formers. It’s great, but it probably means I am more conscious of not writing too much ‘fluff’.

And your worst?

When I got a call from Guido Fawkes in early 2005 to tell me someone had hacked into my blog. I was at a political meeting and it was three hours before I could do anything about it. Someone had written vile, homophobic stuff on it, and it took me ages to correct. I think I know who was responsible, but it would have been difficult to prove.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I did an April Fool supposedly revealing the identity of people who had loaned the Conservative Party money. I was astonished at the number taken in my by it. IBut my favourite entry was the one I posted an hour after I had witnessed the greatest FA Cup Final in modern times. It was very emotional and summed up what being a West Ham fan is all about.

Favourite blogs?

I look at Guido and Conservative Home most often, but my other regular favourites are Paul Linford, Kerron Cross, Bob Piper and increasingly your good self! What I like about the blogosphere is that bloggers from different political parties come together in one community – and often offer mutual support in difficult times.

What inspired you to go into politics?

I was a teenager in the mid to late 1970s. I kept thinking to myself “there must be something better than this”. And there was. I heard Margaret Thatcher give a speech in 1978 and agreed both with her analysis of the crisis we faced and her cure. She was a real inspiration to me and many of my generation.

Which was most enjoyable. Politicos, standing as a Parliamentary candidate, or working for David Davis?

All three were very different. I loved Politico’s and was very sorry to have to move out of the Westminster Village. I was my own boss and it enabled me to build a second career in the media, which is now back on track after a couple of years playing politics. I also really enjoyed my time as a candidate, apart from election night itself. Working for David Davis was the first time for many years I hadn’t been my own boss and I don’t mind admitting I found it incredibly frustrating. On a personal level David is great to work for. You couldn’t wish for a more loyal boss. But in the end I knew that the role was not one which was tailor made for me, and even if David had won, I would not have continued in that position. Of course, I might not have been given the choice anyway!

What do you regard as being the biggest cause of the Conservative Party's mammoth defeat in 1997?

Primarily the longevity of the government. People just wanted a change. The government was tired, bedeviled by sleaze allegations, in ruins over Europe and just dog tired. We all knew we’d lose, although hadn’t quite comprehended the scale of the defeat.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

Many places. I would dearly love to go to the Falklands for personal, sentimental reasons. I’ve also never been to the Caribbean, so I’d like to go there to see what drags Cherie and Tony back there each year! At least I have got most of Cliff Richard’s CDs – so I’m far more deserving of a freebie holiday at his villa!

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

I have been to Australia once on business but would love to go back for a longer period. For some reason I expected to hate it but fell in love with Sydney. I’d also like to go back to Beirut, although perhaps not just at the moment. I was the first British person to go to Beirut after the release of John McCarthy. It was a pile of rubble, but you could tell that it had once been the most beautiful city. One day it will be again.

Who, excluding the present leader, do you regard as the best Conservative Party leader, and if different, the best Prime Minister?

I’ll exclude Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill as they are the most predictable. I’d probably go for Disraeli because his legacy still lives with the Tory Party today. He was the first Conservative leader to embrace the concept of social justice.

Which political figure (apart from Margaret Thatcher) has been your greatest inspiration?

Probably Ronald Reagan. History will look back on him and Gorbachev as the two key figures of the late 20th century. Without those two the Cold War might still be going on today.

Favourite Bond movie?

I always preferred Roger Moore to Sean Connery but I think I would go for For Your Eyes Only. Coincidentally it featured a Margaret Thatcher cameo (she was played by Janet Brown). At least I think it was that one!

Favorite Doctor Who?

Jon Pertwee. I guess it’s a generational thing.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

Are we talking tea, ice cream or sex? Don’t drink tea, love mint choc chip ice cream, and as for sex… well, I’m not Mark Oaten!

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

Alphaville. Bet no one’s ever heard of them. They’re a German band and had a hit here in 1984 with Big in Japan. Bizarrely I played a role in it getting into the charts. I was living in Germany and thought this was such a brilliant song that I sent a copy to Steve Wright (then on Radio 1). He played it and that set it on the road to chart success. Alphaville are still going strong 20 years later, but I have never seen them in concert. I’d also like to see Thirteen Senses.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

I was brought up near Cambridge and hate the place. Never heard of Barsby so I’d have to go for Oxford. I could meet Labour bloggers Antonia Bance and Jo Salmon for tea!

Favourite national newspaper?

Sunday Times. It used to be the Daily Telegraph but it’s gone mad of late. If Simon Heffer becomes its editor I shall cancel my subscription. I love newspapers but all of them frustrate me at the moment.

What would you say your hobbies were?

I’ve recently taken up golf again and love it. Football, music and watching trash on TV or DVD. I also am addicted to reading football biographies.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Miss you nights by Cliff Richard, The Winner Takes it All by Abba and Forever Young by Alphaville
In the Arena by Richard Nixon, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Animal Farm by George Orwell

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