David Cameron is running the risk of making himself more enemies on the Tory right than he needs. He caused considerable offence yesterday when he told Douglas Carswell – a popular MP despite his near-anarchist opposition to big government – to get a sense of humour. Carswell's offence was to ask a question which implied that ministers were letting themselves be run by the civil service. He later said: "I can do gags, but I reckon most people voted for me because they want change, not a comedian."
Oh but come on, why does he suppose the same polls that say Labour is going to win the elections for the London Assembly give Boris Johnson a six-point lead, if not because he is good at the gags?
Whips lash George over office space
I described George Galloway the other day as "strutting" around the Commons. I don't think he liked the word because yesterday he growled at me: "I'm not strutting today."
On the other hand, he was not skulking in his office either – if only because he has no office to skulk in. The previous MP for Bradford West, Marsha Singh, had one, but the Labour whips have given that to another long-serving MP.
In the old days, when Parliament had less space, MPs lived in fear of the whips, who controlled who got which office. When Ken Livingstone was first elected in 1987, the whips decided to teach him to be more respectful by refusing to allocate him so much as a corner of a table in a corridor.
Now there are offices enough for every MP. There must be an empty office somewhere and the Labour whips must know where, but they are not telling Galloway. It is the whips' revenge.
It's one in the eye for the North-east
David Cameron has been compared to William the Conqueror, but not in a good way. Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, has complained: "When William I sought to quell the North, he developed a slash-and- burn policy, and the people of the North-east could be forgiven for thinking the Government has developed exactly the same approach."
That Gateshead council is having to shed 1,500 jobs is unpleasant, but it hardly compares with the trail of destruction left by the Normans, who reputedly killed more than 100,000 northerners.
Cook had a royal bun in the oven
A little crowd gathered in a smart hotel off New Bond Street, in central London, yesterday to see Lady Colin Campbell launch her latest book, in which she asserts that the Queen is the granddaughter of a French cook. The gossip is that her grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore, having fathered eight children by Lady Glamis, wanted to produce yet more, but his wife was so distressed by the death of her first-born that she could not carry on. So, in accordance with an aristocratic sanctioned by the Old Testament, the couple enlisted their cook, Marguerite Rodiere, as a surrogate.
"The Duke and Duchess of Windsor quite deliberately called the Queen Mother "Cookie" because they wanted everyone to know she was the daughter of a cook," she told the crowd.
The author's own life story has its glitches. Her name and title derive from a marriage to the son of the Duke of Argyll that was over in 14 months. At birth, she was called George William Ziadie, because of an early confusion about whether she was a boy or a girl.
She is none too happy about the number of times diary writers have rehashed this information.Reuse content