Diary: A nervous Prime Minister keeps Parliament under control

 

Following this week's reshuffle, a record number of people are being asked to do a minister's job without a minister's pay.

At least 13 will be unpaid – three in the Commons, who still get their MPs' salaries, and 10 in the Lords, who will claim attendance allowance. Grant Shapps has a new role as party chairman which gives him a seat in the Cabinet, but he has lost his minister's salary. Tom Brake, who is deputy leader of the Commons, and David Evennett, a Tory whip, are also unpaid.

This is not David Cameron's way of cutting costs. Nor is it a sign of political strength. Handing out ministerial jobs is a nervous Prime Minister's way of keeping Parliament under control. There is no limit to the number of ministers he can appoint, but there is a limit to the number of ministerial salaries. By getting 10 peers to serve in government free, he cuts by 10 the number of MPs who are hacked off because they have not got a job.

'I feel Jewish, but I don't know if God exists'

Stephen Hawking has turned his brilliant mind to the question of whether God exists in a series he has made for the Discovery Channel, the first of which will be broadcast on Thursday. We will have to tune in to hear his conclusion, but in the panel discussion at the Royal Society this week some of Britain's finest scientific minds seemed to agree it was not a question to which physics could give the definitive answer.

If they do not know, then I suppose we should not criticise Grant Shapps if he does not know either. He told the Jewish Chronicle: "I feel totally Jewish. I don't eat pork, we buy only kosher meat, and we don't mix meat and milk. I like being Jewish, and I married a Jewish girl. All of that makes me seem as though I am quite observant – but actually ... I don't know if there is a God or not."

An agnostic in charge of Tory party. Times have changed.

A serious insult for a Tory MP

The Government's two most recent job-creating initiatives, credit for house builders and targeted tax breaks for North Sea oil corporations, have not impressed the backbench Tory MP, Douglas Carswell. "It's crony capitalism, dishing out deals and favours. It all favours the big, the well connected … the Heath government tried corporatism," he says on his blog. In Tory circles, "capitalism" is not a bad thing; "crony" is a tad uncomplimentary; but to compare a Prime Minister to Sir Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher's predecessor, who so despised her that he refused to speak to her for more than 20 years – that is a serious insult.

Sir Raymond and the Falkland islands

An obituary of the former Tory MP Sir Raymond Whitney in yesterday's Independent said he favoured a "diplomatic solution" to the Falklands crisis 30 years ago. Though true, that phrase missed the drama of Whitney's intervention. After the Argentinian invasion, the Commons assembled, with MPs on all sides clamouring for war. The loudest noise came from the Tory right. Whitney was a right wing Tory, but as a former diplomat, he knew the Foreign Office was not convinced Britain had a legally sound claim to the islands. He suggested the UK negotiate before anyone was killed, which caused an uproar. Ten weeks and 904 deaths later, even Whitney accepted that a negotiated solution had gone, and he was appointed a Foreign Minister, whose brief covered Argentina and the Falklands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all