Andy McSmith's Election Diary: The truth about a Tory-SNP pact

A document has been unearthed that proves that the SNP secretly approached the Tories to do a deal after the general election. No matter what Nicola Sturgeon may say, they were anticipating if not hoping for a Conservative victory. The price they demanded for co-operation was a free vote on devolution.

Andy McSmith's Election Diary: Gaffes are killing the radio star

To soften the blow for Michael Gove when he was moved out of his job as Education Secretary into the non-Cabinet role of Chief Whip, Downing Street spun that he would be the “Minister for the Today programme”.

Andy McSmith: Ed Miliband's unlikely supporters

Leaflets have started dropping through letter boxes in Doncaster North, urging people to vote for their local Labour candidate, Ed Miliband. They feature endorsements from local electors. Community activist Tony Sockett says “I am supporting Ed Miliband on 7 May because I know he is committed to backing the next generation.” This is not wholly surprising, because Tony Sockett used to be a Labour councillor. Retired midwife Cynthia Bunting declares on the same leaflet that she is confident that Ed Miliband will tackle the problems facing the NHS. Again, no surprise. She is a party member whose photograph appeared in the local paper alongside John Prescott after a fundraising dinner in Doncaster.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Respect MP George Galloway needs to work on his swing

George Galloway – never one to understate his  own achievements – was heard on BBC Radio’s Today news programme talking up his victory in  the Bradford West by-election. “We successfully won the biggest swing of the 20th century on mainland Britain,” he proclaimed.

Andy McSmith's Diary: How the tone of George Osborne's trumpet tax was rapidly remixed

Never in the history of British fiscal policy has there been a tax that came and went faster than the trumpet tax. It was there in the morning: by the afternoon it was gone, leaving nothing but a cacophony of puns.

Andy McSmith's Diary: David Cameron's kitchen stink could backfire on him

David Cameron must think the “two kitchens” story is doing Ed Miliband serious damage, because he managed to work no fewer than five jokes about it into Prime Minister’s Questions.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Chris Grayling the worst Lord Chancellor for 342 years? No, worse

“Most judges, lawyers, probation staff, prison officers, victims, court staff and people denied access to justice believe that you have been the worst Lord Chancellor since Lord Shaftesbury in 1673,” Chris Grayling was told by his Labour shadow Sadiq Khan, as they faced each other in the Commons for the last time before the election.

Andy McSmith's Diary: A good day to bury unpalatable decisions

It was Take Out the Trash Day today, when the Government delivers so many announcements that unwelcome news is likely to be buried under the volume. There were no fewer than 42 written announcements from ministers.

Andy McSmith's Diary: After Esther McVey, it was Chris Bryant's turn to get a rough ride from Speaker John Bercow

John Bercow has apologised for the quip in which he likened the Employment minister, Esther McVey, to a washing machine. He was pulled up today by the Tory MP Heather Wheeler who suggested that it was not the sort of thing the Speaker should be saying to a female minister.

Andy McSmith's Diary: You can't say John Bercow is sexist - he's rude to everyone

John Bercow, the Speaker, risked setting off a row about sexism when he made a sarcastic comment at the expense of employment minister Esther McVey who had just given a 95-word answer to a question from an MP. “I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop – but it doesn’t,” the Speaker remarked.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Sir Malcolm Rifkind's exit clears path for Kensington's first female MP

Kensington Conservative Association, which has suddenly lost its sitting MP, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, will be choosing a new candidate on Friday the 13th, and whoever they choose is as near as guaranteed to be the next MP. Party headquarters have received an avalanche of applicants, from which they will pick six names, which the local party will whittle down to three.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Want to be a non-dom for tax? Just ask your dad

One of the more extraordinary revelations thrown up by the HSBC scandal is that a rich man who counts as non-domiciled under our tax system, and is therefore exempt from paying tax on money earned outside the UK, can hand this status down to his British-born children.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Sting in the tail for Jack Straw, a bridge too far for Malcolm Rifkind

Sir Malcolm Rifkind is an aloof grandee who never took much trouble making friends or remembering names. Jack Straw has spent 35 years in the Commons being friendly and keeping his enemies to a minimum. Both, it is assumed, have destroyed their chances of being elevated to the House of Lords after the latest lobbying scandal, but Straw can take some comfort from the reactions of other MPs when he made a reappearance in Parliament today. As he was speaking in the Commons, the maverick right-wing Tory, Jacob Rees Mogg, interrupted to pay tribute to Straw’s “amazing chairmanship” of a committee set up to sort out the fractious argument over the appointment of a new Clerk of the Commons. “It was amazing to see so sophisticated and capable an operator steer us through... I hope he doesn’t mind me interrupting him to put that on the record,” said Mogg.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Say what you like about her, but Harriet Harman wouldn't say this

Imagine you are a woman no longer in your twenties and so obsessed with the way you look that you cannot resist constantly posting photographs of yourself on social media, preferably with loads of cleavage on show.

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