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Tory Tunbridge Wells MP hopeful Iain Dale criticised after previous comments surface of him on LBC saying ‘he never liked the place’

A radio host attempting to become a Kent MP has come under fire after previous comments of his surfaced saying he “never liked the place” he is hoping to stand in.

LBC presenter Iain Dale said in an episode of his podcast ‘For the Many’ in 2022 that he lives in Tunbridge Wells “slightly against my will,” as his partner hails from the town, and would “happily live somewhere else”.

Broadcaster Iain Dale at the Sittingbourne and Sheppey Conservative Association annual dinner at Hempstead House, Bapchild. Picture: Cameron Beart
Broadcaster Iain Dale at the Sittingbourne and Sheppey Conservative Association annual dinner at Hempstead House, Bapchild. Picture: Cameron Beart

Long time radio host Iain Dale, 61, announced on his show yesterday evening (March 28), that he would be seeking selection as the Conservative candidate for Tunbridge Wells.

After 10 years as a staple radio host, he told listeners: “You know how much politics means to me.

“And if you've listened for any length of time, you know I've always had two ambitions in life. One was to be a radio presenter and the other was to be an MP.

“Last time I tried, the electorate fought back, in quite a major way it has to be said.”

In 2005 Mr Dale previously stood as the Tory candidate for North Norfolk - coming second to the Liberal Democrats’ Norman Lamb.

He has also attempted unsuccessfully to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Maidstone and The Weald in 2006, and Bracknell in 2009, before resigning from the party’s candidates list in 2010.

He added: “But now I am putting my hat in the ring again to be a candidate at the general election.

“Whatever the result, I feel I can play a role in restoring trust and honesty in politics.

“There are no guarantees I will be selected, let alone elected, but I know that I would forever kick myself if I didn't at least have a go.”

He is resigning from his job as a host at LBC to stand.

Mr Dale added later on his podcast: “I’m essentially giving up the best job I’ve ever had, I’m giving up quite a good income on the chance that I might possibly be selected.”

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark is standing down
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark is standing down

It comes after Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells Greg Clark announced that he will not be standing again at the general election to be held on July 4.

However, comments have surfaced from an August 2022 episode of Dale’s podcast ‘For the Many’, where he told co-host Jacqui Smith: "I've lived in Tunbridge Wells since 1997 - slightly against my will, in that my partner comes from Tunbridge Wells and can't really imagine living somewhere else.

“I've never liked the place, still don't, and would happily live somewhere else."

It came as he and his co-host were discussing Rishi Sunak’s appearance in Tunbridge Wells that summer when campaigning to become Tory Leader.

Controversially, Mr Sunak told local party members he had successfully redirected money from “deprived urban areas” to places like Tunbridge Wells.

Local Conservative Party member and recent local election candidate for Speldhurst & Bidbrough, Aaron Brand, said: “We will know who the candidate is on June 1. There will be other people as well as Iain putting themselves forward.

“His 2022 comments about Tunbridge Wells aren’t unifying and could tank his entire campaign.”

Mike Martin, Liberal Democrat candidate for Tunbridge Wells, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I think it speaks to the chaos in the current Tory party that they are now looking at selecting candidates who are on record as hating the place that they want to represent in Parliament.”

“We know that he’s not running for parliament because he loves Tunbridge Wells and he’s spent the last year rubbishing Rishi Sunak and the Tory party – his boss - so we know it’s not for a love of Conservative values or the Conservative Party.

“So what does that leave? Iain Dale, so it’s for Iain Dale’s ego.”

Labour candidate Cllr Hugo Pound was similarly critical, adding: “Iain Dale is a knowledgeable and experienced broadcaster but he is not active in the Tunbridge Wells community.

“He does not appear to be attuned to the mood of Tunbridge Wells - an ardent Brexiteer in the only constituency in Kent to vote Remain!

“People here are fed up with the Conservatives, its government, its lack of focus, its lack of integrity and honesty.

“Tunbridge Wells wants a change of government more now than ever before and, from everything I’ve heard, Iain Dale doesn’t get it!

“To admit, as recently as 2022 that “I’ve never liked the place, still don’t and would happily live somewhere else” will not sit well with any resident here.

“Tunbridge Wells residents deserve an answer from Mr Dale - how can someone who clearly dislikes living in our town be qualified to represent us in Parliament?”

Mr Dale has declined to comment until the shortlist is announced.

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