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.

Andy McSmith's Labour Conference Diary: John Prescott’s selective memory shows Chuka is no chum

Calling Chuka Umunna “Chumbawamba” was not a friendly act. On the face of it, Lord Prescott was making a self-deprecating remark about the difficulty of pronouncing an unfamiliar name when he told the comic Matt Forde, on the Labour conference fringe, “I keep making a mistake of calling him Chumbawamba so I get into all sorts of bloody trouble.”

Andy McSmith's Labour Conference Diary: Ed Miliband co-opts Gareth, Xiomara, Josephine (and a few others)

Politicians love to flavour their big speeches with tales of how they met and spoke to actual members of the public – but even by contemporary standards, Ed Miliband’s conference speech was unusually well stocked with cameo appearances by what they call “real people.”

Andy McSmith's Diary: No limit to the temerity of the EU - even our faulty kettles are at risk

A threat to the British way of life filled the front page of today’s Daily Express. “Now kettles face EU ban – Brussels meddlers in another assault on our way of life,” the headline declared.

Andy McSmith's Diary: The candidate Douglas Carswell shoved aside still feels sore

It is hard to judge who is angriest with Douglas Carswell just now – old allies on the Tory Eurosceptic right who feel personally betrayed by his defection to Ukip, or Peter Lord, who until last week thought he was to be Ukip’s candidate in Clacton.

Andy McSmith's Diary: If any other MP had suffered the same fate as George Galloway...

George Galloway has given his first interview since the fracas on a Notting Hill street which left him badly bruised and in need of hospital treatment, and has complained about the muted reaction from other politicians to his misfortunes.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Ukip now has a ‘front bench’ – just don’t try to sit on it

Did you know that Ukip has something called a “front bench”? Well, it has – and over the past two days, Nigel Farage has been conducting what his people grandly call a “reshuffle” to overcome the idea he runs the whole show single-handedly, and to give the party a more modern finish.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Ruffled ermine as David Cameron pays for overlooking the Lords in last week's reshuffle

David Cameron has had to soothe the ruffled ermine of outraged peers by promising a seat in his Cabinet for their leader, Baroness Stowell, if the Conservatives win the general election.

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