EDP columnist and former North Norfolk Conservative candidate Iain Dale’s conference fracas
- Credit: PA
Verbal battles over Damian McBride's memoirs at the Labour conference escalated into actual fisticuffs today, as the ex-spin doctor's publisher stepped in to stop a protester disrupting the publicity drive for his controversial memoirs.
Iain Dale, of Biteback Publishing, was involved in a scuffle with the man on the Brighton seafront in an effort to stop him appearing on screen behind McBride during a series of media interviews.
The protester - a familiar face outside party conferences, where he regularly appears with banners opposing smoking or nuclear energy - managed to get himself into shot as Mr McBride spoke to ITV1's Daybreak.
But Mr Dale decided to take action, grabbing the man's rucksack and physically hauling him out of the way of the cameras, and the pair grappled on the pavement as Mr McBride's interview continued.
The barking of the protester's dog - which eagerly joined in the commotion - could be heard by TV viewers as the struggle continued.
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But the terrier - carrying placards reading 'No Nukes' on its back - failed to live up to the loyalty expected from dogs, jumping up and biting its owner on the rear.
The protester doggedly attempted to make the best of the situation, holding up his banner reading 'No Nukes - Radio Active Dust Cancer Epidemic' to photographers who were busy recording the scrap.
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After a few moments, the pair separated and dusted themselves down, and the protester went back to trying to edge his way into view of the cameras.
Writing on his blog, Mr Dale - also a broadcaster on LBC 97.3 radio - joked: 'I knew I shouldn't have had three Weetabix this morning.'
He said he had seen the man holding his placard behind Mr McBride and distracting from his live TV interview.
'I did what any self-respecting publisher would do - got out of the car, ran across, got him in an armlock and pulled him out of the shot,' he said.
'He started resisting and we ended up in an unseemly tumble on the ground. I was conscious of the photographers and other cameramen who were present filming the whole thing, but I was determined this idiot shouldn't disrupt what was an important interview for my author.
'I am someone who runs a mile from any form of physical confrontation normally, but I never understand why broadcasters seem to accept without question that someone with a placard or a loud voice should disrupt this sort of interview.
'Anyone who has seen the pictures and video can see that there was no real violence. I certainly didn't hurt the guy. He threw a punch at me but missed, and the only injury was when the man's dog bit him on the bum.'
He added: '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.
'One of the snappers afterwards said to me that I did what they had all been dying to do for years, as he regularly interferes with their professional work.
'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.'