Diary: A Tory who really should know the price of milk


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The Independent Online

In April, the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries described the Prime Minister and Chancellor as "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk". But should politicians really be expected to know the price of a pint? If they're the minister responsible for the dairy industry, then yes, probably.

On yesterday's edition of Radio 4's Farming Today, the Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, was forced to admit that he had no idea, because his "wife buys most of it".

The price of milk is a time-worn interviewer's weapon, designed expressly to demonstrate how out of touch a politician is with the people he or she represents.

But Mr Paice really ought to have seen it coming, given that he was there precisely to talk about cuts to the price paid for milk by major processors, which threaten to cost the average dairy farm around £50,000 per year and put many small producers out of business.

The minister was hoping to avert protests planned for today in London. For the record, milk costs between 30p and 65p approximately, depending on its quality, quantity and source. You'd think Mrs Paice might have briefed him.

New TUC chief gets family's blessing

The TUC has appointed its first female leader, 52-year-old Frances O'Grady. Not unexpected, given she was the only candidate for the post of general secretary. There's no suggestion, however, that this was some Pyongyang-style elevation to the top spot.

O'Grady won nominations from 32 of the TUC's 58 member unions, but her own – the ahem National Union of Journalists – was one of the few in the Congress that failed to support her.

That said, it would have been equally embarrassing, if not more so, had Bectu not backed her: O'Grady's daughter Hannah, another committed trade unionist, is a member of the broadcasting union's National Executive Committee.

Towering figure in French politics

Mr Cameron had already made some unfortunate jokes at the expense of the French before Mr Hollande's first official visit: one about French UK taxpayers funding the NHS, and another corker about a "cheese tax".

Dave also has an extensive repertoire of jokes about people's height (and their weight, and their speech impediments), and one wonders whether he rolled any of them out for Hollande's benefit yesterday.

The new French President, you see, is a mere 5ft 7in, two inches taller than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but nonetheless diminutive for a Gallic leader. The average height of French presidents, traditionally men of stature, is 5ft 9in. Charles de Gaulle was 6ft 5in, Giscard d'Estaing was 6ft 2in, Jacques Chirac was – and still is – 6ft 3in.

Hollande and Sarkozy have a historical predecessor, of course: Napoleon's height is disputed, but he's generally believed to have been 5ft 6in, an inch shorter than Hollande, an inch taller than Sarkozy.

City defies fate and gets it wrong

Despite a stream of banking scandals, the City is never ashamed to throw a party. Hence the VIP invitations that just arrived in the Diary's inbox for Square Mile magazine's forthcoming summer bash on, er, Friday the 13th. This week the magazine launched its so-called "Summer Festival" by populating Exchange Square with bikini-clad models.

Square Mile proudly describes itself as "a luxury lifestyle magazine for finance professionals". One of its 2010 cover stars was "Ace of Diamonds" Bob Diamond.

"Derided by critics for being an overpaid risk-taker, has the public got Bob Diamond, the next CEO of Barclays, all wrong?" asked the headline. I think we know the answer to that one now.