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.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Try as you might, you can’t keep Goodman down

Helen Goodman, Labour’s shadow media minister, is in trouble again. Last time, it was for not knowing where she was; this time, it was for putting out a sweeping insult of all the women Tory MPs promoted by David Cameron in his latest reshuffle.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Scowling Speaker John Bercow and the Anglo-Saxon epithet

One of the saving graces of the House of Commons used to be that while MPs might behave badly towards each other, they at least had respect for the office of the Speaker. That took a dive during Michael Martin’s mishandling of the MPs’ expenses crisis, and hit a new low today when John Bercow was openly accused of driving a popular parliamentary officer into early retirement.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Jonathan Hill for Brussels. But which Jonathan Hill?

Lord Hill is best known as the minister who once went into the Prime Minister’s office intending to resign, but spoke so softly that David Cameron did not hear, and so he kept him on. So whether he meant to accept the post of European Commissioner can only be guessed: perhaps he turned it down, sotto voce, and the Prime Minister thought he was saying yes.

Andy McSmith's Diary: A tale of two MPs – and how honest doubt trumped tub-thumping

If Boris Johnson wants a Commons seat not far from his London home, the ideal berth is now available. John Randall, the bird-loving MP for Uxbridge, owner of the finest beard on the Tory benches, has announced that he is quitting Parliament at the next election.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘I apologise unreservedly to Allan Rogers. It was an inadvertent slip of the tongue.’

Andy McSmith's Diary: Ukip's Neil Hamilton left embarrassed after he claimed that a former MP visited bondage clubs on BBC Newsnight

The party's deputy chairman has since apologised 'unreservedly' to Allan Rogers

Andy McSmith's Diary: Was Harriet Harman discriminated against for being useless?

Damian McBride, the former Labour spin doctor sometimes referred to as McPoison, was thought to have gained an inner calm while working for the Catholic charity Cafod, a job he recently left ahead of the appearance of a paperback version of his annoyingly readable memoirs. Today, though, he blew a fuse. What set him off was the news that Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, was implicitly accusing McBride’s old boss, Gordon Brown, of sexism.

Andy McSmith's Diary: What’s in a name? Well, only about 4,400 miles...

You have to feel some sympathy for Chuka Umunna. Normally so calm and so sharp, he is being talked up as one of the Labour shadow cabinet’s star performers – and then he goes and mangles a word one day, and everyone is laughing at him.

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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