Andy McSmith's Diary: Labour’s image problem reaches Rochester

Labour’s last day of campaigning in the Rochester by-election would have gone better if Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South, had not turned to help. Out on the stomp, she was so taken by a house decked in three St George flags, with a white van parked outside, that she took a picture and posted it on Twitter, with the caption “Image from Rochester.”

Andy McSmith's Diary: Sir Bob Geldof’s strange claim to common cause with plebs

“I came from a poor Irish, not particularly well educated background… I am in fact ‘a pleb’,” Bob Geldof said in evidence in the Old Bailey libel trial on behalf of his friend, former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

Andy McSmith's Diary: ‘Conservative’ is a word the Tories dare not use

As the Conservatives struggle to hold Rochester and Strood against the rising wave of Ukip support, they have produced an eight-page newspaper called Kelly Talks, which boasts of an “exclusive” interview with their candidate Kelly Tolhurst. “I have seen the negative impact that uncontrolled immigration can have,” she told the paper. The writer adds that “Kelly raised an eyebrow by telling the Prime Minister that something needs to be done about immigration.”

Andy McSmith's Diary: Clarification of Sir John Major’s clarification

Sir John Major’s warning, delivered before the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, that Britain may leave the EU was an interesting contrast with the previous speech he delivered to that institution.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Benn the younger claims a place among his peers

The story of Tony Benn’s famous battle to forsake his seat in the House of Lords has come full circle. When the minutes of today’s proceedings in the House of Lords were posted on the website, it was confirmed that his oldest son, Stephen, has taken up the title of Viscount Stansgate, which his father renounced.

Andy McSmith's Diary: The face of anti-political correctness gone mad

The Tory MP Philip Davies has made the news twice this week, once for his confrontation with Jon Snow in the offices of Channel 4, after which he accused the veteran broadcaster of bullying him, and once when he suggested that sex education in schools is causing an increase in teenage pregnancies. On that subject, he challenged others to look at the evidence, something he had notably failed to do. The Office for National Statistics says that teenage pregnancies are at their lowest level since 1969.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Exterminating Travellers – not a laughing matter

The best that can be said of Alan Mellins, a Conservative councillor from Maidenhead, is that his behaviour was ignorant. Maidenhead includes a site where Travellers settled five years ago without planning permission, and on Monday a council panel was asked for any suggestion about how to speed up the process of evicting them. “Execute them,” Mellins suggested.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Tories’ Russian roulette with canvassed donations

A Russian tycoon who is presumed to have paid £28,000 for a portrait of Margaret Thatcher in a fund-raising auction will get his money back – not because there is anything wrong with the portrait, or because he does not want it, but because the Conservative Party should not have let him buy it.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Earl Spencer takes on the divine right of kings

Earl Spencer is the uncle of the prince who is in line to be king – and, therefore, a committed royalist, you might think. Wrong.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Douglas Carswell’s 51-word opening punch as a Ukip MP has PM on the ropes

Douglas Carswell has spoken 51 words in the Commons as a Ukip MP, and already he seems to have sent David Cameron into retreat. At Prime Minister’s Questions, he asked about a promise the Conservatives made in 2010 that they would legislate to give constituents the power to sack sleazy MPs. This became a live issue during the expenses scandal.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Nick Clegg – and the meeting with the Chinese ambassador that never was

More than two weeks have passed since Nick Clegg made a highly publicised announcement that he was summoning the Chinese ambassador to convey the British Government’s “dismay and alarm” over the treatment of demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Andy McSmith's Lib Dem Conference Diary: Which ‘Cleggie’ will be a contender to carry on the legacy?

One way for a politician to show he’s a little bit like the rest of us is to refer knowingly to the sort of comedy that makes us laugh. To that end, Nick Clegg’s conference speech dragged in Al Murray, creator of the Pub Landlord, a character with a head full of ghastly opinions. The Deputy PM said he enjoyed a joke that Murray cracked at a pro-union rally in Trafalgar Square that “there’s something wonderfully vague about being British – that’s why we call it Brit-ish”.

Andy McSmith's Lib Dem Conference Diary: Take note - one item that won’t be saved for the nation

The famous note that the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, left behind as the Labour government packed up in 2010 is not going to be bequeathed to the nation. Byrne assumed that he was handing over to his former Tory shadow, Phil Hammond, whom he knew well enough to write him a jokey memo saying: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid that there is no money.”

Andy McSmith's Tory Party Conference Diary: Poor old Patrick O’Flynn’s been done up like a kipper

Generations of political students will be grateful to Ukip for publishing the full texts of all speeches from its recent conference on its website. Every golden word uttered by Nigel Farage, Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless and the “lesser kipper” frontbenchers is there.

Andy McSmith's Diary: It’s not easy having principles when free drinks are on offer

Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group, News UK, has been reaching out to the Labour Party. During the conference that’s just ended, it sponsored a marquee immediately outside the conference hall, where politicians and hacks could mingle amid the smell of good coffee. It also hosted a party to which every Labour MP was invited. Some accepted, some did not reply, but a tiny few – possibly only two – wrote back saying they refused on principle to accept hospitality from the company at the centre of the hacking scandal. One refusenik was Chris Bryant.

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