Iain Dale Apologises to “Mr Holmes, Mr Miliband, the Police, my Family, Friends and Colleagues”

Iain Dale, 24 September (now deleted):

Damian McBride was doing a live interview on Daybreak on the Brighton seafront. I was waiting in my car to drive him to do his next interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC when I noticed that a protester was holding a placard behind Damian which was filling a lot of the screen and totally distracting from the interview. I assumed someone from Daybreak would intervene to stop him, but no one did. So I did what any self respecting publisher would do, got out of the car, ran across and pulled him out of the shot. He started resisting and we ended up in an unseemly tumble on the ground.

…In some ways I have committed the cardinal sin of becoming the story myself, rather than my author, and I regret that. But do I regret that I stepped in to protect my author? No I do not… Everyone has an inalienable right to protest, but no one has a right to make a continual nuisance of themselves and interrupt interviews like that.

Iain Dale, 26 September:

Following the incident on Brighton seafront on Tuesday morning, I have today voluntarily attended Brighton police station where I accepted a police caution… I want to apologise and say sorry to Stuart Holmes, who is a passionate campaigner and well known to everyone who attends party conferences and was perfectly entitled to do as he did on Tuesday in trying to get attention for his causes. It was totally out of character for me to react to him in the way I did.

I also want to apologise for the blogpost I wrote after the incident. It was full of absurd bravado and in the heat of the moment I behaved in a frankly idiotic way.

The story has received widespread media coverage.

My first thought on viewing the footage of the scuffle was that Dale came across as someone with an unattractive sense of entitlement; Holmes was holding a placard in a public place a way that may have been a distraction, but which wasn’t disrupting McBride’s speaking. But I didn’t see the incident as “assault”, either – Holmes was actively attempting to keep in close shot in a way that was doubtless annoying, and as an activist he might reasonably expect someone else to attempt to obstruct him from doing so as part of the “game”. Ordinary “assault” has the connotation of seeking to inflict injury or pain, which clearly wasn’t Dale’s intention here.

Two other factors coloured my view of what happened: there was a great deal of critical comment on Twitter, and I am in general wary of “Twitchhunts”; second, I don’t like how Dale operates or what he stands for, and I so I react cautiously – perhaps too cautiously – when presented with a gifthorse. However, it’s clear that things got out of hand, as Dale escalated from obstruction to aggressive restraint – and although the outcome was farcical, Dale is lucky that Holmes or his dog were not seriously injured (although Holmes was bitten by his dog, which had become distressed and confused).

Dale’s apology, though, smacks of self-importance:

I also want to apologise to Labour leader Ed Miliband and his conference attendees…

I know there will be many who will never forgive me for what I did and I understand that, but those who know me will know that I mean every word of my apology to Mr Holmes, Mr Miliband, the Police, my family, friends and colleagues.

I’m sure that Miliband will be glad to read that.

It should also be remembered that Dales’ apologies are strategic; following a gaffe about a war reporter in 2011, he wrote that:

You can do one of two things in these circumstances. Stick to your guns or issue a rapid apology. I have been in this situation before on my old blog, and I have always taken the view that if you’re in a hole, stop digging. And if you think you’ve gone over the top or just been plain wrong, say so. Acknowledge it. Apologise and put it behind you.

…What I did tonight was give those who already think ill of me further ammunition. So be it. They lost no time in dubbing me a cunt, a bellend, a pompous snot, a fuckpiece, a knob head, a dick, a wanker and much worse. 

One can’t help feeling that the real point Dale wanted to convey was that his critics are uncivil and crude. And when he thinks that he can spin his way out of a hole rather than apologise, he’s more than willing to do so, as I noted last year. This tendency explains his absurd original justification that he was “protecting” McBride.

So where’s the religion angle in all this? It’s karma – in 2011, the blogger Tim Ireland was falsely accused of “stalking” by Nadine Dorries, who wished to discourage critical scrutiny of her performance as a Member of Parliament. Tim was interviewed by police “under caution”, meaning that his statements could be used as evidence in court. In fact, Tim demonstrated to the police that he had done nothing wrong, but Dorries deliberately misrepresented the situation to suggest Tim had been given a caution, which would mean that he had accepted that he had broken the law. Dale, as a supposedly independent (albeit Conservative) journalist, publisher, and blogger, ought to have taken a sceptical view, but he instead joined in for his own reasons. Now Dale himself has an actual police caution.

Incidentally, Dale’s scuffle with Stuart Holmes is not the first unseemly incident involving anti-nuclear protestors and a Conservative on Brighton seafront; in 2002 the late Mike Keith-Smith wrote to the Independent with recollections of an attack by Young Tory “libertarians” on a CND display on Brighton beach during a Conservative Party conference.

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