Diary: Coalition keeps its eye on the ball

 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Government has helped to ensure there are no empty seats at the Olympics by buying 8,800 tickets, at a cost of just under £750,000, for ministers, civil servants, councillors, council officials and their guests.

All the recipients, it is said, will be people who helped in some way to make London 2012 happen, or have a close connection to it.

But during yesterday's session of the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee, the Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe pointed out the “oddity” that the largest single batch of tickets in the Coalition's order appeared to be for 410 seats for beach volleyball, which will be staged in Horseguards Parade, pictured, right beneath the windows of offices occupied by several Cabinet ministers, including Nick Clegg and Michael Moore. What on earth could be behind this interest in volleyball, Mr Sutcliffe inquired.

Jonathan Stephens, the most senior civil servant in the Culture, Media and Sport department, confessed that he also thought it odd, but he had satisfied himself that “the explanation is coincidence rather than conspiracy”.

All the recipients, it is said, will be people who helped in some way to make London 2012 happen, or have a close connection to it.

But during yesterday's session of the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee, the Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe pointed out the “oddity” that the largest single batch of tickets in the Coalition's order appeared to be for 410 seats for beach volleyball, which will be staged in Horseguards Parade, pictured, right beneath the windows of offices occupied by several Cabinet ministers, including Nick Clegg and Michael Moore. What on earth could be behind this interest in volleyball, Mr Sutcliffe inquired.

Jonathan Stephens, the most senior civil servant in the Culture, Media and Sport department, confessed that he also thought it odd, but he had satisfied himself that “the explanation is coincidence rather than conspiracy”.

Miliband turns his attentions to poll dancing

Ed Miliband's staff say he is staying calm and focused on the long term as his position in the opinion polls gets ever worse. He certainly needs strong nerves to avoid sinking into depression after a survey by Ipsos yesterday gave him the lowest rating he has had since becoming Labour party leader, while David Cameron's are at their highest since 2010.

Another poll, by TNS-BMRB, found that 78 per cent of respondents did not have confidence in Mr Miliband's ability to solve Britain's problems. Mr Cameron had negative ratings at this stage in the electoral cycle, in 2007, but they were not this bad.

Still, Labour's people are looking at one set of surprising figures and thinking there is still hope. Two opinions polls in a row have suggested that Ken Livingstone is in with a chance of regaining his old job as London's mayor, despite Boris Johnson's personal popularity.

That suggests that when people are actually faced with a choice, rather than being asked about a hypothetical election three years away, it will not be the party leader's charisma that decides the outcome.

Dorries' war for women

As Parliament wound up its business close to midnight on Monday, Mid-Bedfordshire's Tory MP Nadine Dorries, used what time remained for an attack on sexism in the BBC. There are too many male DJs and presenters and not enough women, she complained.She could have added that the women who break through into broadcasting have other obstacles to surmount. In next week's issue of Radio Times, Kirsty Young tells how in 1996 a senior politician refused to be interviewed by her "because he said he didn't want a little smart-arse in a short skirt to get the better of him".

But Ms Dorries rather spoilt her case by trying to make it a left-right issue. "An irrational desire by the left to protect the BBC ... has allowed the present situation to occur," she alleged, only seconds after delivering a tirade against the "aggressive, abrasive and often rude" BBC presenter who annoys her more than any other, namely Andrew Neil.

Neil is many things, but he is not leftwing, and – trust me on this, Nadine – the left has no "irrational desire" to shield him from your rage. Oh, and the politician whose insulting attitude has stuck with Kirsty Young was Michael Heseltine, who at the time was the Conservatives' Deputy Prime Minister.

Widdecombe wavers

Another disappointment for the Tories, following yesterday's report that no one at all has shown an interest in running for the job of commissioner at Thames Valley Police. There were hopes that the feisty Ann Widdecombe (pictured), former Home Office minister and star of Strictly Come Dancing, might be induced to run for one of the 41 commissioner jobs up for election on 15 November, but she has told BBC Radio Devon she is not interested – and not just because she is busy.

She apparently does not think the idea will work, because police commissioners will not have the sort of power that the Mayor of New York has to impose a policy of "zero tolerance" and sack anyone who opposes it.

She said: "I would do it if I thought I would be able to say 'we will have zero tolerance: no crime will be too small to be pursued'. Unless you can do that, you're never going to get on top of the problems."

Comments