“Well, Penny Mordaunt is the best seller so far in terms of tickets,” Iain Dale tells The Herald.

“Nicola Sturgeon is just behind,” he adds.

Tomorrow, the LBC broadcaster will be in the capital for his third run at the world’s largest arts festival, and ticket sales for his long-form interviews with political heavyweights are going well.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Is politics the new rock 'n' roll?

Guests lined up for his 18 shows over the next eight days include First Minister Humza Yousaf, Labour rising stars Wes Streeting and Jess Phillips.

Tory grandee David Davis will be there as part of a double act with Alex Salmond.

Also making an appearance is Kate Forbes, who ran Yousaf close for the SNP leadership, and the nation’s favourite psephologoist, Professor Sir John Curtice.

But (and in what must be one of the most unlikeliest sentences printed in The Herald’s proud 240 year history) it’s the Leader of the House of Commons who has proven to be the top draw.

The capacity for Dale's show at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is 300. It's not enough for Mordaunt's turn on Sunday. The venue has moved them to a bigger room. 

“I think her profile obviously during the coronation was massive so I think that's played a big part in it,” Dale says. “And I mean, given that you couldn't get much further south than Portsmouth, her constituency, from Edinburgh, I think it's really quite interesting that she's the top seller.”

The Herald: MP Penny Mordaunt commissioned commissioned an embroidered midi-length cape dress for her role in

Mordaunt went viral across the world in May when in her role, as Lord President, she had the responsibility of holding the 3.6kg Sword of State for 51 minutes during the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

It was quite a moment, considering the position of Leader of the Commons was meant to be a bit of a demotion.

Liz Truss had reportedly given her leadership rival the role as a consolation prize to keep her out of the spotlight.

Mordaunt has run in the last two Tory leadership races. There’s not a vacancy at the moment, but there could well be one this time next year.

Her decision to come to the capital to take part in the show is intriguing. 

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“There are other people who are probably better known than her,” Dale says of his guests. “Wes Streeting's got a really high profile at the moment. Harriet Harman. So lots of other politicians.

“You could say well, why why aren't they beating her? I think it's a tribute to her that she's actually captured people's attention. They want to know a little bit more about her.”

Asked why he thought there was an audience for live, long form political interviews at the Fringe, the broadcaster said it was because people weren’t necesassirly getting it elsewhere.

“It's a sort of podcast rather than radio,” he explains. “What I mean by that is on the radio, if you interview a politician, you have got a bit of a role to perform. And you do have to give them a bit of a grilling. You're not deliberately trying to trip them up, but there's an expectation that there's going to be a bit of an interrogation.

“Wheras on a podcast you've got a lot longer. You can really delve into their character, their background, what motivates them.”

“What I find with the podcast is that people often contact me after and say well, I've seen that politician in a completely different light.

“I think that's a really good thing. I mean, you might say, well, it's the politicians faults themselves for not portraying who they really are in normal interviews. But not everybody is really capable of that. They are actually human beings just like the rest of us.”

“Last year when I did Nicola Sturgeon I got criticised by a lot of people for a so called soft interview," he adds.

"Well, I thought, what did you think I was going to do? Shout at her? Just be gratuitously rude? It's not like that.

"The whole idea of these shows is for people to see politicians in the hall and get to know them a bit better."

The Herald:


This will be the third time that he has interviewed Sturgeon, and, given everything that's happened since last year's Fringe, there's no shortage of material. 

He says he was surprised by the former first minister when she first took part in his All Talk show in 2019.


“Most of the time the people that I interview at Edinburgh I've either interviewed before or know them or there's some connection. But Nicola Sturgeon I'd never interviewed before. I'd never met her before.

“So the first year I did I was quite nervous. It's quite a big thing intervewing her. I thought she was a much more empathetic person that I had maybe imagined her to be.

“And it's similar to, I mean, I shouldn't compare her to Margaret Thatcher, but I felt the same.

"I never interviewed Margaret Thatcher but I did sit beside us at dinner once for 90 minutes, which as you can imagine I was scared stiff off."

“But again, it goes back to she's actually a human being. She wasn't the prime minister at that point, and I think Nicola Sturgeon I liked her a lot more than I thought I might as well."

READ MORE: Fringe 2023: See the big name stars coming to Edinburgh

He said the feeling was probably mutual. "I suspect she was thinking why am I doing this right-wing Tory bastard and I think she was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't going for the cheap headline.

“But I mean the interview both times seem got lots of headlines. She only has to open her mouth to create headline in some ways.“

Iain Dale's All Talk runs August 5 - 13 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre

For the Many Live! runs August 9 - 13. Also at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.