Diary: Enter Cable, with more minders than Arthur Daley
Parliament's press gallery was unusually full yesterday during questions to the Business Secretary. What drew the hacks was curiosity about how Vince Cable would manage, surrounded by a new ministerial team that includes Michael Fallon, who comes to him direct from Conservative Central Office, Matthew Hancock, who is George Osborne's vicar on earth, and Nick Clegg's helper Jo Swinson.
The only one of his ministers in whose company he is obviously comfortable is the Universities Minister, David Willetts, who may be Tory but he is cerebral, good-natured and bald as a ping pong ball, just like the Secretary of State. Matthew Hancock, who is 35 years younger than Cable, sounded like the kid who is so clever that he can talk grown up already. Jo Swinson laughed a lot as if she was on an exciting day out. Michael Fallon lurked in silence for the first half hour, but spoke softly when he did eventually say something.
Cable seemed to be taking all this in his stride until his Labour shadow, Chuka Umunna, commended him for being "so irrepressible that he needs not one but three minders" and reminded him that Fallon, the "minder of state", had announced that he was going into the department to be its "senior champion of business".
Cable did not like that. It triggered a long monologue about what a "champion of business" he, Cable, has been. He sounded more and more cross as he went on; his hands started to shake, and he sat with a scowl that threatened to cause an eclipse.
This show could get more and more entertaining as the election gets closer and the prospect of Cable leading the Lib Dems into a coalition with Labour becomes imminent.
HR hints for those awkward sackings
One the juiciest stories about the reshuffle to surface so far came from Joe Watts, of the Eastern Daily Press, who alleged that the former Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, was told by David Cameron that one reason for sacking her was that she was too old. She is 54. Her successor, Owen Paterson, is 56. Downing Street insisted that age did not enter into it. True or false, the story inspired this helpful offer from the Tory MP Stewart Jackson, a former branch manager of Lloyds Bank: "I have a Masters degree in Human Resource Management. Happy to help the PM out with tricky exits."
Brains like these, and who do we get?
There were some brilliant physicists on parade at the Royal Society on Wednesday, to discuss Stephen Hawking's forthcoming series of television programmes for the Discovery Channel, which begins on 13 September. They included the Historian of Time himself, but just in case the panel discussion floated too far into the cosmos, Will Self, was enlisted to help lower the tone. "I feel a bit strange sitting here," he confessed. "It's as if they put Lady Gaga in charge of the NHS."
Shame on him! What an unnecessary slight on Lady Gaga, in the week when Jeremy Hunt, a public relations specialist who believes in homeopathy, took charge of the NHS.
Romney is not Phil Lynott's sort of boy
More than 26 years have gone by since the drug-related death of Phil Lynott, the lead singer of Thin Lizzy, and 36 years since his greatest hit, "The Boys Are Back in Town", graced the charts. Unlike the singer, the song has lasted. It even blared out during the Republican convention as they adopted Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. How proud Lynott's Mum must have been that her boy should have been commemorated in this way, you might think.
If you thought that, you thought wrong. "Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage and to civil unions for gays makes him anti-gay, which is not something that Philip would have supported," a furious Philomena Lynott told the Irish rock magazine Hot Press.
"He (Phil) had some wonderful gay friends, as indeed I do, and they deserve equal treatment in every respect, whether in Ireland or the United States.
"Neither would Philip have supported his policy of taxing the poor and offering tax cuts to the rich, which Paul Ryan is advocating.
"There is a black President of America, which to me, as it would have been to Philip, as a proud, black Irishman, is wonderfully symbolic."
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