In the light of his post yesterday mentioning the Forest petition, I was disappointed to read that Iain Dale has given up blogging on a daily basis.
However my disappointment goes a little deeper than that because reading Iain Dale's Diary had become something of a ritual and, dare I say it, an addiction (alongside my all too frequent mugs of coffee).
Money aside (how does an independent blogger attract serious revenue from blogging?), Iain Dale's Diary was a phenomenal success, attracting thousands of readers and even generating spin off events at successive Conservative party conferences.
Indirectly the success of the blog led to its demise because it created the platform from which Iain launched his broadcasting career. (From reviewing the papers on the BBC News Channel and Sky News, he is now hosting a popular daily programme on LBC, which can't be bad.)
What I liked about Iain's blog was the combination of politics with more personal stuff. It's a format I have copied here - albeit less successfully!
Iain has also been a consistent champion of social and economic liberalism so his decision to retire the blog is a huge loss to the liberal community.
In fact, the longer I read Iain Dale's Diary the more I realised that we had very similar opinions on almost every major issue and it was a source of enormous frustration to find that Iain had already commented on a story, expressing exactly what I wanted to say, hours before I could whip out the keyboard.
I should add that I have known Iain for about ten years. In 2001 I approached him with a proposal to produce a magazine for Politicos, the Westminster-based bookshop he owned and ran in what seemed, from a distance, to be a rather dictatorial fashion.
I discovered though that his bark - or at least his glare - was very much worse than his bite. Together we produced several issues of The Politico at quarterly intervals (guest of honour at our launch party was, I think, the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP) but we scrapped the project in 2003 because we couldn't generate enough advertising to make a profit and it was too time-consuming to justify working for nothing. (Sound familiar?) Nevertheless it gave me an insight into Iain's remarkable contact book.
We never spoke about it but I assumed that Iain was a fierce anti-smoker because at that time Politicos combined the bookshop with a small coffee shop and sitting there I would often find myself staring absentmindedly at a sign above the main door that forbade anyone to even think about lighting up.
In fact, although he often claims to "hate" smoking, very few people in the public eye have defended smokers' liberties (as someone called it the other day) as often as Iain Dale, despite the usual vituperative criticism (see some of the early comments in yesterday's post about the Forest petition).
In recent years Iain has chaired a number of our events (never asking for or being a paid a fee), the most recent being a Voices of Freedom debate at the IEA in June.
In short - and he won't thank me for saying this - Forest and The Free Society will miss Iain Dale's Diary, and so should you. You can comment HERE.