Iain Dale's EXCLUSIVE Norwich North story: less than meets the eye

by Stephen Tall on June 24, 2009

Tory blogger Iain Dale got very over-excited last night with his EXCLUSIVE article, Clegg Approached Martin Bell & EDP Editor to Stand in Norwich North. Sorry to say it, Iain, but I’m a little underwhelmed. Here’s why…

First of all, Iain has hardly covered himself in glory in his coverage to date of the Lib Dem by-election campaign in Norwich North. He made a bit of a prat of himself last week, when accusing the party’s candidate April Pond of “whoring” herself around Norfolk, as she was already selected for the new parliamentary seat of Broadland. (And yes, that’s right, the man who so fiercely objected to Michael White’s use of the term “hissy fit” as sexist really did accuse a female candidate of “whoring” herself around. Irony meet Iain, Iain meet Irony.) Sadly Iain preferred not to mention that a fair chunk of Broadland falls within Norwich North, a point which rather torpedoed his argument. Even in yesterday’s post he wrongly referred to the two constituencies as “neighbouring”. In fact they’re overlapping.

Secondly, let’s acknowledge the bit of Iain’s article which counts as a ‘scoop’: that Nick Clegg has approached a couple of personalities – former BBC journalist and former ‘sleaze-busting’ MP Martin Bell, and ‘veteran editor’ of the Eastern Daily Press Peter Franzen – to consider standing as the Lib Dem candidate in the by-election. To which my 100% genuine reaction (assuming Iain’s story is right) is: well done, Nick. I’m delighted our leader is willing to approach folk from beyond the traditional political career-ladder and ask them to join and stand for the Lib Dems. After all, it worked pretty well for the Liberal party and Clement Freud in the 1973 Isle of Ely by-election.

But, thirdly, (and here’s the point Iain, as a Tory, seems to have some difficulties comprehending) even if Nick had persuaded either Martin Bell or Peter Franzen to stand for the Lib Dems they would still have had to have (i) been approved as a party candidate, and (ii) been selected as the candidate by the local Lib Dem party. Y’see Iain, unlike other top-down parties the Lib Dem leader can’t just foist a candidate on an unwilling local party – so we can’t do, nor would we want to do, what David Cameron did to the Ealing Southall Tories in 2006, and parachute in a candidate who turned out to be a liability. To suggest, therefore, that April Pond is ‘The Third Choice LibDem Candidate’ is just plain wrong.

So, overall, well done, Iain, for finding out for us that Nick Clegg is busy casting the candidate net far and wide in pursuit of the best possible potential Lib Dem MPs. I’m pleased to hear that’s happening. Now if you could just remember in the future that Broadland constituency and Norwich North are overlapping – and apologise for using the rather unpleasant term “whoring” of April Pond – then that really will be something worth branding EXCLUSIVE.

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Good try. But glad you acknowledge it was a story, though I am not sure what my record in North Norfolk has got to do with the price of fish.

Nowhere in my post did I say it was a bad thing that Nick had approached Franzen and Bell. In fact, I was quite impressed. But it is clear – even to you – that April Pond was not his preferred candidate. And several of her ex campaign team in Broadland could tell you why.

Definition of a “fair chunk”? Two villages, Drayton and Taverham. And at a guess, I’d say less than 10% of the electorate. Max 15. A “small chunk” would be more accurate.

As you well know, I did not mean to imply anything sexual about April Pond – it was used in the context of “touting”. but you knew that anyway. But even if I had meant it in a sexual way, there are actually male whores too, you know. I know you lead a sheltered life in Oxford, but they do exist, you know! Not that I would know. Ahem. I will just get my coat.

by Iain Dale on June 24, 2009 at 6:52 pm. Reply #

Iain, fancy a threesome?

by John on June 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

Iain has a bit of a habit of posting desperate spoiler stories about Liberal Democrat by-election campaigns.

Is Grant Shapps running the Tories’ campaign this time?

by Chris Keating on June 24, 2009 at 6:59 pm. Reply #

I don’t think Iain ever produced any evidence of the “£50 draw for putting up a poster”.

Come to that I never got an apology for the insinuation that I would have been involved in such activities.

by Hywel on June 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm. Reply #

I’m backing Craig Murray. He’s unaffected by expenses and he knows what he’s talking about. Thats two advantages over the LibDems.

by Atropos on June 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm. Reply #

Iain – how does the word “whoring” mean touting?

According to the compact OED online

Whore means:
(verb) 1 work as a prostitute. 2 use the services of prostitutes.

You appear to have morphed in Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty.

by Hywel on June 24, 2009 at 7:16 pm. Reply #

Leader approaches A and B hardly proves that Leader prefers A or B to C.

by Antony Hook on June 24, 2009 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

Mmmm. And there I was thinking that Party Selection Procedures precluded selection as a PPC unless you had been a party member for at least 1 year. Perhaps His Consortship could clear this one up for us?

by Martin Land on June 24, 2009 at 9:29 pm. Reply #

Martin, I think it is that you are unlikely to get selected as a candidate unless you are on the party’s approved candidate list and part of the criteria to get on that list is to have a referee from within the party who has known you for at least a year and worked with you or seen your campaigning at close quarters.

So I don’t think it precludes formerly non-party members from getting selected but it makes it more difficult.

by Mark Reckons on June 24, 2009 at 11:46 pm. Reply #

I don’t have any problem with Clegg approaching people outside the party to become candidates, but at least they should be liberals. Given Martin Bell’s record of voting against an equal age of consent regardless of sexuality and the support he expressed just last month for the Green Party, I’m not sure he can really be described as a liberal.


by Bernard Salmon on June 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm. Reply #

@Bernard: I agree, not Martin Bell’s biggest fan.
@Anthony Hook: My thought exactly!

@Iain Dale: As you well know, I did not mean to imply anything sexual about April Pond – it was used in the context of “touting”. Oh, but of COURSE that’s not sexist! *coughs* I was very pleased that you slapped down Michael White over his “hissy fit” remark about Caroline Flint, but I’m afraid you’ve lost all credit with me for your attack on April Pond. If you claim to be a feminist you should know that it is almost always women who have sexual accusations (or metaphors) used against them; they don’t seem to stick on men.

If you want to prove you’re not sexist I suggest you accuse a few celebrity male Conservatives of “whoring themselves around the country” in search of a winnable seat. Besides, do you really think that only local people should be able to stand as parliamentary candidates?

by Niklas Smith on June 25, 2009 at 9:21 am. Reply #

“Even in yesterday’s post he wrongly referred to the two constituencies as “neighbouring”. In fact they’re overlapping.”

Pardon my ignorance, but how can two parliamentary constituencies overlap? That would mean that constituents in the overlap would be represented by two MPs.

by Tom Harris on June 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm. Reply #

Tom – because as per James Graham’s blog-post, linked to in my article:

Broadland – being a new constituency to be created at the next General Election – encapsulates part of Norwich North constituency which is about to be abolished.

by Stephen Tall on June 25, 2009 at 8:23 pm. Reply #

Disappointing coverage in http://www.en24.co.uk and regional TV tonight – April writes to Tories promising positive campaign, whilst someone else issues PR branding Green candidate an extremist. A bit of an own goal?

by Anon on June 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm. Reply #

Iain Dale (above) not quite telling the truth again:

“Definition of a “fair chunk? Two villages, Drayton and Taverham. And at a guess, I’d say less than 10% of the electorate. Max 15. A “small chunk” would be more accurate.”

Sprowston East
Sprowston Central
Old Catton and Sprowston West
Hellesdon South East
Hellesdon North West
Drayton South
Drayton North
Taverham North
Taverham South

Thorpe St Andrew NW
Thorpe St Andrew SE
Thorpe Hamlet (part)
Crome (part)
Catton Grove
Mile Cross

Still, what else do you expect from a Tory?

by ColinW on June 26, 2009 at 7:58 am. Reply #

Colin W

What would be of more interest would be how that breaks down into the number of voters rather than just a plain list of places. Is Dale right on his percentages or not ?


There is no issue in using the term whoring in this context. Have you not heard the term used in the media applying to people selling themselves with no principles not necessarily for sex. Think the likes of Lowri Turner. It is a cheap shot certainly and probably not worthy but I doubt it is sexism.

Also for those on the ground what is April Pond like, is she a good candidate ? We have had some stinkers recently most notably in Crewe and Nantwich.

Also this is rather an unseemly spat. I am sure there is less to this story than meets the eye.

by Meandyew on June 26, 2009 at 8:40 am. Reply #

Dale is totally incorrect in his percentages.

A deliberate Tory attempt to mislead, and given that Dale was easily & painfully beaten by Norman Lamb in Norfolk North he can hardly deny local knowledge.

by ColinW on June 26, 2009 at 10:43 am. Reply #

So the Lib Dem candidate is complaining about the Conservative party’s history of Negative Campaigning!

This is simply breathtaking in its mendacity, there has to be some award for the sheer level of cheek involved in this.

The Dim Lebs ARE the negative campaigning, if you took away negative stories away from Lib dem leaflets all you’d be left with is a pick of Clegg the useless and your yellow parrott.

The Lim Debs are the most dishonest, venal campaign machine going, an utterly pointless party full of avcuous losers!!!!

by Geordie-Tory on June 26, 2009 at 11:17 am. Reply #

Is English not your first language Geordie Tory?

by ColinW on June 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm. Reply #


I’m assuming that you’re referring to me…

The answer is that, according to the Selection Rules, you must be a member of the Party for one year prior to being approved as a Parliamentary candidate. You can apply for approval in advance, and even apply for a seat, as long as the Selection Committee are willing to consider you. However, you cannot be shortlisted unless you have been approved.

It’s another of those situations where the Leader might want something, but can’t necessarily have it. English Candidates Committee would have something to say, as this is a devolved power. On the other hand, if a suitably qualified liberal celebrity offered their services, would we want them to turned away?

Ah, the glories of a devolved constitutional settlement…

by Mark Valladares on June 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

“The Lim Debs are the most dishonest, venal campaign machine going, an utterly pointless party full of avcuous losers!!!!”

Apart from in Newcastle upon Tyne that is, G-T, now just remind me how many councillors you have there again please?

by jim on June 26, 2009 at 10:52 pm. Reply #

Colin W
I think you have misunderstood. While much of the current NN constituency is within Broadland DISTRICT COUNCIL, as you rightly point out, only 4 wards (Drayton N&S and Taverham N&S) will be moved to the new Broadland CONSTITUENCY at the next GE. This is the Constituency April had been selected to fight (on the new boundaries) some time ago, it being a quite a good prospect, given that other parts of it are currently in Norman Lamb’s (and Iain Dale’s!) stomping ground, North Norfolk. Dale is therefore right that only a minority of the NN seat was to have been contested by April before, though I suspect his ‘max 15%’ above is still quite low – probably more like 20-25%. My view is that it still makes sense to have a candidate known in up to a quarter of the seat, rather than a totally new candidate.

by Terry Gilbert on June 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm. Reply #

The byelection will be fought on the existing boundaries, NOT the new boundaries so Dale is not telling the truth, that is the point. Tories, whether Conservative or Labour seem to have real problems with the truth, don’t they?

by ColinW on June 27, 2009 at 8:58 am. Reply #

Colin, your tribal politics are pathetic. Crewegwyn makes a great point in the other Norwich North thread about how we need to tackle other parties. Yours is the Rennard approach. It may have worked ten years ago. It is a busted flush now.

by Martin Kinsella on June 27, 2009 at 9:59 am. Reply #

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