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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
If I had a pound for every time Ann Widdecombe has said in my presence that she will never, ever, evah appear on Celebrity Big Brother, then I’d certainly have more money than the undoubtedly large fee which persuaded her to do it this year!
Between 2001 and 2010 our theatre show, A Night with Ann Widdecombe (arf, arf), toured more than 100 provincial theatres, and part of it was her talking about her various TV show experiences. She did Celebrity Fit Club and a couple of other reality TV shows which I now can’t recall, but she was usually asked by an audience member if she’d do Strictly Come Dancing or Big Brother.
She said she’d love to do Strictly, though not while she was an MP – but that nothing could persuade her to go into the Big Brother house. Well, this year something did. In the opening episode, she said it was the fact that this series features an all-women cast that persuaded her. I’m surprised her nose didn’t start growing long (since anyone who knows her knows that Ann is far happier in the company of men than women)
On Thursday night’s episode, Ann admitted she snores, and wondered how other housemates would react to it. Rachel Johnson has already said she has a phobia of snoring, so that could be interesting! Since Ann has mentioned this herself, I think I can reveal I have personal experience of it. [Stop it at the back!]
When we’d drive to theatres all round the country, she’d inevitably fall asleep in the passenger seat. Gradually her head would loll, back, her mouth would open, and out would come some startling snoring noises. I could turn the music up as loud as I liked, but it had no effect. Even a dose of Meatloaf had no effect. The eruptions simply continued. The only thing that could quell them was a quick poke to her side. It did make me laugh, though! When she eventually woke up she’d always say: “I hope I didn’t snore”… “Absolutely not,” I replied…
I suspect Ann will surprise herself by the relationships she forms, unless she decides not to play the game, and keep herself to herself. However, I’d be very surprised if she hits it off with Amanda Barrie, the former Coronation Street actress . There could be trouble ahead. –
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On Wednesday morning, my new mobile phone was snatched out of my hand by a moped. I’d only had the wretched thing for six days. It happened so quickly that it took a few seconds for my brain to compute what had happened.
At first you feel a fool; then you feel angry. It was only when someone told me I’d been lucky I hadn’t had acid chucked at my face that I started to realise how serious the incident could have been. I have no hope of the perpetrators being apprehended or of getting the phone back, although I suppose stranger things have happened.
I tweeted about the experience, of course, but certainly lived to regret it. The abuse I got was quite unbelievable. You’d have thought the natural human reaction would have been to react by sympathising or empathising. Some people did, but others took the view that I deserved it, and that it took me out of my “Norfolk bubble”. “Funniest thing I have read all day” said a black cab driver. Blocked. I mean, what kind of person reacts like that? Twitter is in many ways a fantastic invention, but boy does it bring out the worst in human nature.
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Well, Toby Young has had an interesting week, hasn’t he? I don’t know him well, but no one can doubt his commitment to improving educational standards.
His achievements in setting up four free schools cannot be questioned, but he’s always been a figure the left love to hate. His appointment to the board of the Office for Students has caused massive offence to the likes of Owen Jones. Apparently it’s a disgrace for anyone on the right to be appointed to any public body, and his appointment shows how biased “this Tory government” is.
This conveniently ignores the fact that the new chair of the Office for Students is Sir Michael Barber, a Blairite if ever there was one. Toby’s critics also ignore the fact that he applied for the post – and was presumably interviewed for it.
His big problem is some of the things he’s tweeted in the past. There but for the grace of God – etc etc. If a 16 year old Kent youth Crime Commissioner is forced to resign over some unfortunate tweets that she had made as a 13 year old, then some will say the same should apply in this case.
This is all part of the Left-Right culture war. The Left – actually, I mean the hard Left – are organising in a way we haven’t seen since the 1980s. The Right will need to do the same. Wagons will need to be circled, defences dug. At the moment the broad Right is a mess. If Toby Young is forced out, just watch who they will come for next. He certainly wouldn’t be the last.
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The big story of this year, in my view, is going to be North Korea. I genuinely fear that there will be a military conflict between it and the United States.
2018 hasn’t got off to a good start. Donald Trump’s tweet about the size of his nuclear button was so childish as to almost be beyond belief. Wars can break out when leaders indulge in hyped-up rhetoric, and when misunderstandings develop into something far worse. There is huge scope for this here.
The one positive development was Kim Jong Un’s decision to reopen the hotline between Pyongyang and Seoul. Trump, meanwhile, went further off the rails later on the same day of the nuclear button tweet. He issued a statement in response to a story that Steve Bannon had told Michael Wolff that a Trump campaign meeting with the Russians verged on the ‘treasonous’.
Trump let rip, questioning Bannon’s sanity, and denying he had ever been a person of influence. It’s worth reading Trump’s statement in full as it is testament to the fact that Trump is totally out of control, and ignores any advice he is given to tone down his rhetoric. He may not listen to his political and media advisers, but let’s hope he listens to his generals if they advise him not to press the nuclear button.