Thursday, 1 October 2009

Q & A With Iain Dale Who Has Been Selected for Bracknell Open Primary

I recently asked Iain Dale a few questions when I discovered that he had been selected to stand in the open primary for the new Tory PPC to replace Andrew Mackay MP.

Details of the other candidates on the short list can be found here.

1. What can you offer the Bracknell constituency?

Total dedication to the constituency, the knowledge of which doors to knock on and who to talk to to get things done and an ability to analyse a problem and get it fixed. Ann Widdecombe reckons I work harder than anyone else she knows. I'm a very driven person and if I make a pledge, I move heaven and earth to deliver it. I call a spade a spade.

2. Will you be willing to move to the constituency?

I will have a home in the constituency and I make a pledge that it won't cost the taxpayer a penny. My doctor, butcher, post office and pub will be in the constituency. I'll be using the same council services and public transport as everyone else. I'll commute to Westminster on the train. I won't have a separate home in London.

3. You have never been afraid to question your own party on policy will this continue?

Yes. I do not adopt an attitude of 'my party right or wrong'. I am proud to be a Conservative but every party gets things wrong sometimes, and you sometimes need the courage to speak out. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am constructive in my criticism, but do not hesitate to speak out if I think the need arises. Constituency before party is a maxim every MP should adopt.

4. How do you feel about Andrew Mackay's departure and the second home error he and his wife Julie Kirkbride made?

On a personal level I feel desperately sorry for them both. Everyone in Bracknell knows what a good constituency MP Andrew has been. He is accessible, visible and has helped thousands of people. But he made an error of judgement and has paid the price for it - a heavy one. I have a reputation for sticking by friends in times of adversity. After all, if you abandon them you're not much of a friend, are you? But like Andrew, I recognize the strength of feeling both in the constituency and in the country over MPs' expenses and I can promise that I "get it".

All my expenses will be available online and through the local press for public scrutiny. I will account for every penny spent in the pursuit of my parliamentary duties and constantly look at ways to save money for the taxpayer.

5. Do you think that ticketed open primaries are a good idea?

I was very sceptical about Open Primaries when they were first trialled. But I have changed my mind. Anything that involves a large number of people in the political process - many for the first time - has to be a good thing.

I recognize why some long standing Conservative members react against them as their role in candidate selection is inevitably diminished. But overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives. There is little evidence of rival parties trying to pack a meeting and vote for the weakest candidate, and I am sure that won't happen here.

6. If you could improve anything about Bracknell constituency what would it be?

I'm tempted to duck that question on the basis that I am not yet an expert. But when I taught in the constituency in the mid 1980s I remember thinking that Bracknell town centre could do with a makeover. Today that is even more the case. We all want to see the regeneration happen, but it has got to be demand led.

Also, it is almost criminal that a town the size of Bracknell doesn't have its own hospital.

7. Will you continue to blog if you were elected?

Absolutely. I think a blog is a vital part of any politician's communication strategy. I don't intend making many changes, although I would probably start a separate blog purely related to the constituency. But I certainly don't intend abandoning Iain Dale's Diary, which is now one of the most widely read blogs in the whole of Europe.

8. If you were to win, would being an MP affect your work at Total Politics?

Over the next eight months I will change my role in the magazine. I am not the editor. I conduct one interview each month and I oversee the business side.

I also commission books for Biteback Publishing.

I do not intend to divorce myself from the businesses as 12 people rely on my continued input for their jobs.

Under new rules, constituents will be able to see how long I spend on this work, and that is quite right. Some may think I should give them up completely or shut them down. I do not agree. I didn't start these two businesses two years ago with the intention of them ceasing trading if I entered politics. My future role will be as chairman rather than chief executive and is likely to take up three or four hours a week.

9. Some might say you are a career politician and part of the Westminster village. What would you say to those people?

I'd love to see how they justify that. One of the great things about this selection is that all 7 candidates have a life outside politics.

In the last 20 years I have created and run eight different companies. I know what it's like to sit in my office on a Friday afternoon wondering how I can pay the salaries. I have gone through the agonies of hiring and firing people. I experience the same red tape as every other business. I also have a career in the printed and broadcast media, presenting radio and TV shows.

Yes, I love politics, but to allege that I am a career politician is ridiculous. When I left university I spent two years working in the House of Commons. In 2005 I spent six months working for David Davis on his leadership campaign. Two and a half years in politics out of a career spanning 24 years - that's hardly evidence of being a career politician!

10. Why do you think you did not win the Norfolk North general election in May 2005 against the incumbent Norman Lamb (Lib Dem MP)?

The Conservatives should never have lost the seat in 2001 to the LibDems, but once you lose to them, it is difficult to win a seat back, as many others have found. Norman Lamb's constituency vice chairman Nich Starling (who writes the Norfolk Blogger blog) wrote this about my campaign...

"I was vice Chairman of north Norfolk Lib Dems at the last general election and was District Councillor for Fakenham North in the North Norfolk constituency. Put simply Iain did not stand a chance due to our organisation and planning. We knew (and know) that North Norfolk Tories organisation and ability to fight elections was in a parlous state. Iain didn't when he put his name forward. When selected and he realised that he was on a hiding to nothing he carried on knowing it might damage his prospects but he stayed loyal to the Tory party and actually fought a first class campaign. Iain put out more leaflets than any Tory candidate in Norfolk and had more posters up than any held Norfolk seat. The fact was nobody was going to beat Norman Lamb who has enormous name recognition and widespread popularity across North Norfolk and beyond. In my opinion the Tories would have lost be 15,000 , not 10,000 were it not for Iain's campaign."

The truth of the matter was that Lamb was a very good constituency MP. He had stood for the seat twice before he won it and was very popular. He was also quite right wing and Euro-sceptic for a LibDem, and even members of the local association liked him. I played him at his own game, had excellent press coverage and ran very successful local campaigns, but it was never going to be enough.

11. Do you have any prior connection with the constituency? If not, isn't it fair for voters here to conclude that you are just looking for a safe Tory seat in order to further your ambitions?

It's a reasonable point to make. However, Bracknell is the only seat I have applied for. If was so desperate to get a seat - any seat - I would have applied for Woking, Wycombe, Congleton and the rest. But I didn't.

I believe you have to have an affinity with any seat you apply for. That doesn't mean you have to have lived there, but you have to be able to relate to it and understand the people.

I taught Arab kids English for two summers at Wellington College in the mid 1980s so I got to know the area around Crowthorne and Sandhurst well. We took the children for trips into Bracknell.

But I make no bones about it, I am not a local and none of the others are either. But I will become a local and within a very short time I can promise that I will understand the issues, which make this constituency tick. I know already that it is a high aspiration, high motivation area, and that suits my character down to the ground.

As you can see Iain Dale was kind enough to give me some very extensive answers. I am activity seeking the opportunity to ask similar questions of all the candidates in the open primary and hope to post them on this blog soon.

If you would like to reply to any questions asked or answered then please do so in the comments below this blog.

Iain Dales Bracknell Campaign Website can be found here

Disclaimer : Bracknell Blog does not supporting any particular conservative's candidacy in the Bracknell Primary Selection.


  1. "I move heaven and earth to deliver it. I call a spade a spade." May I suggest that if Iain intends to "move heaven and earth" that he doesn't use a spade? ;)

    This is a general question and not one to Iain Dale, but has Mackay paid any money back at all?

  2. From what I know about it, No Andrew Mackay hasn't paid anything back, its all quite on that front. I cant see how he could afford to pay it back unless he sold a house, perhaps?

  3. Like all other MPS Andrew is awaiting the verdict of the Legge report, which is examining every case of alleged misconduct by MPs of all parties.

  4. Well I normally vote Lib dem so this is a nice change for me to vote for someone else. I actually think Iain's ok. So I may well vote for him although I doubt hes the most liberal or socialist as some. I think Iain would be a good MP however.

    I will be there so I will wait and see what they all say however.

  5. OMG Iain Dales standing. Right I'm getting a ticket got to see this.

  6. Had a look at the Iain Dale site. Didn't know he was a blogger although I do remember seeing him on sky. I think he would have a good network which may help. I can see that holding him back too.

  7. It'll be curious to see how his blog changes once he became an MP, with the more knowledge he would obtain would allow him to hold the government to account more - or he'll tow the line like the rest of them. We shall see.

  8. I'm not a natural line-tower :). But you're right. It will indeed be interesting to see how my blog changes. I'm as interested to see as the next person...

  9. You certainly have to be more careful if one did become an MP. But the party line can be questioned you just have to know how to do it with causing some jumped on, hyped up news story.

  10. I still don't like the idea of there being no locals but I can see that all the candidates have there good points. I like Iain but I also like a few of the other. Guess I better go and vote as I want to hear what they have too say.

  11. Interesting interview. With Iain's CV I'd say that he is almost certain to be the Conservative candidate and therefore he'll be the Bracknell MP next year.

    He should expect a lot of questions about expenses on the hustings - a great deal of anger directed towards Mackay around here for the blatant second home double-dipping.

    When does the 'Legge Report' get published? Before the general election I hope.

  12. Bracknelloutsider11 October 2009 at 11:53

    I wouldn't write the other candidates off yet - some of whom have also answered these Q&A (so far only Ryan Robson and Phillip Lee). As I understand it Phillip is a Doctor covering the local area, and with those local connections must be a strong candidate.

  13. Iain Dale is only a diarist and has far too much to say on EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY and way too bitchy with it. He's not parliamentary material but a blatant self-publicist.
    I'll be there on Saturday, particularly to listen to what Rory Stewart and Philip Lee has to say.

  14. Going to be a very interesting day. Cant wait to see who wins. still not got my detials however, I wonder if the postal problems are going to effect getting the details through

  15. John Raff: I will prove you wrong... if I get the chance!

  16. Seen this?

    Bracknell even gets a mention!*!