Andy McSmith's Diary: The Tories’ new strategy: say Unite and Len McCluskey as often as possible

The more times a Tory can mention Unite and Falkirk, the happier they are

Andy McSmith's Diary: Jeremy Hunt(s) for answers to all the right questions (if they’re sent in beforehand)

There is little spontaneity in Question Time in the House of Commons. MPs arrive with their pre-prepared questions, quite often supplied for them by the business managers.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt

Andy McSmith's Diary: Crisis? What crisis? Jeremy Hunt resembles another politician heading for A&E

Some people think that the nation’s accident and emergency wards are in crisis, but they are wrong, according to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Nadine gives ‘the scum’ something  to get their teeth into...

It can be said without fear of contradiction that the Sunday Mirror is not Nadine Dorries’ favourite read. Last week, a Sunday Mirror hack approached the Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire to ask why she pays her daughter £35,000 a year from her MP’s expenses to work for her when her daughter has a Cotswold home 96 miles from London and 89 miles from Bedfordshire.

Lord Black's large bar bill was the result of a technical glitch

The Feral Beast: Unpaid bar bills, kissing and telling, the great clean-up  trainspotting

Reporters on The Daily Telegraph reeled in a scoop after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Palace of Westminster, asking who had the biggest unpaid bar bills.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Death-wish cyclists, mooning children and a debate about litter

There has been some agonising in London about why six cyclists were killed on the roads in the space of less than two weeks. To this discussion, Lord James of Blackheath has made his distinctive contribution. His experience is that cyclists are “longing” to be run over. He told the House of Lords, during a debate on litter: “I have seen cyclists put their cycles up against the central reservation... and defy you to run them down while they photograph you doing it. This is what they are longing for.”

Andy McSmith's Diary: Another not-so-Happy Hour for down-with-the-music-public Dave

David Cameron really ought to stop parading his knowledge of 1980s music. First there was Paul Weller, whose reaction on hearing that Cameron had listed “Eton Rifles” as his favourite tune was to exclaim: “Is he thick? He probably thinks ‘Eton Rifles’ is a song about him and his mates at school.”

Andy McSmith's Diary: It’s time to stop invoking old treaties and let Gibraltar decide for itself

“Spain does not seem to be aware of the Treaty of Utrecht,” the Labour MP Jim Dobbin claimed, introducing a “debate” on Spain and Gibraltar in the Commons. I put “debate” in quotation marks, because the word implies a contest between different points of view. In the UK, politicians never actually debate Gibraltar: they assert that it is ours and that Spain should leave off. That message was repeated when the Spanish ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office.

Is HSBC’s fee cuts part of a war or a prelude to charges?

The Feral Beast: Nick Serota's loofah, the luck of Lloyd Webber, Fergie's mistakes, plus Nick Robinson and sex

The groovy revamped Tate Britain opens on Tuesday, and there's an all-day party to celebrate on Saturday, with Hot Chip on the decks. What a different scene would have greeted you only a couple of years ago. One of the biggest changes is the opening of The Grand Saloon, a first-floor room overlooking the Thames. For years it has been divided into offices, one of which was the director Sir Nicholas Serota's private bathroom, complete with tub and loofah. Sadly, I gather the bath has now been thrown out with the bathwater. "I can confirm that Nick has had a bath in there," says a spokesman when I call, "but he moved offices some time ago, and it hadn't been used for a while." Sir Nicholas is chairman of the Turner Prize jury. Surely "Tate director bathing" is an installation we'd all pay to see?

Andy McSmith's Diary: The disgraced peer and his negligible £3,000 a month

Last month I noted that Lord Hanningfield, the former Tory leader of Essex Council, has edged a step further towards being an active member of the House of Lords by tabling a written question, his first since he appeared in court charged with fiddling his expenses in February 2010. This follows the tentative first step he took last month, by saying something during a committee meeting. He still has not contributed anything to any debate in the main House of Lords chamber.

Andy McSmith's Diary: Hedge funds, the Tories’ cash cow, eagerly repay favours

A measure in George Osborne’s 2013 Budget which made no headlines outside the financial pages was the abolition of stamp duty reserve tax on UK-domiciled asset management funds. That may not sound like an attention grabber, but it was manna for Britain’s hedge-fund bosses, who by the Government’s estimate saw £145m drop off their companies’ collective annual tax bill.

Andy McSmith's Diary: One sympathetic Tory sought to co-write leader’s biography

Of all the people David Cameron might choose to write his biography, Michael Ashcroft must surely be near the bottom of the list.

The Feral Beast: Monty Don's moans, love and loot, Korean cuisine and Foot and footie

Monty Don has become something of a Marmite figure among gardeners, not least on social media. We recently pointed out some of his howlers, and the blogosphere is full of comments calling him "arrogant" and "condescending".

Andy McSmith's Diary: Defenders of the vulnerable - salute the Commons’ dullest committee

In an obscure corner of the parliamentary process sits a committee called the Statutory Instruments Joint Committee.

Andy McSmith's Diary: The man who didn’t hate Britain but did kill a cat

Ed Miliband has won an unexpected gong at the annual Spectator political awards for his speech to this year’s Labour Party conference. Unexpected because the magazine’s editor, Fraser Nelson, thought that the speech was constructed around “a dangerous principle, dug out of its 1970s grave and held up for applause”.

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British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

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