Diary: Forgetful David Cameron escapes with a put-down from John Prescott

 

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The Independent Online

While a distressed looking Gordon Brown told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday about how he hated having his son's medical records exposed to the public gaze, Downing Street decided not even to try to shut down the story about David Cameron accidentally abandoning his young daughter in a pub.

The story is not going to harm the Prime Minister, because there is hardly a parent anywhere who does not harbour a similarly guilty memory. Even John Prescott was understanding. "Cameron has done worse. He once left Nick Clegg in charge of the country," the former Deputy Prime Minister tweeted.

And as for that Tony Blair – he left the UK in the hands of John Prescott.

An MP who won't be missed in Westminster

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, will not be missed in Westminster when he stands down to concentrate on his role in Stormont, He will not be missed because, true to a long-standing Sinn Fein policy, he has never taken his seat.

But his passing will be noted by Ipsa, the body that disburses MPs' expenses, and from whom McGuinness has claimed, as he is entitled to do. During 2011 alone, he received more than £29,000 towards the cost of running his constituency office. If Sinn Fein wins the by-election in Mid Ulster consequent on McGuinness's resignation, his successor will likewise submit his expenses whilst refusing to acknowledge Parliament's authority.

Voice from past has lessons for today

The death yesterday of the former Tory MP John Maples stirred memories of a bluntly written memo he wrote when he was vice-chairman of the Conservative Party just after Tony Blair's emergence as Labour leader in 1994.

It warned that the Conservative government could be heading for serious defeat, because of "a feeling of powerlessness and insecurity about jobs, housing, health service, business, family values, crime etc, and no vision of where we are heading".

A particular problem was what the Tories were doing to the NHS. The public thought the reforms were "clumsy" and "believe what doctors and nurses say about them, which is almost universally hostile".

There was also, he warned, a perception that "the rich are getting richer on the backs of the rest, who are getting poorer".

How times have changed.

Pigeon feeders – you must be mad!

Pigeon News. Leslie Harrison, a well-known local character in Portadown , Co Armagh, has been told by the council that he must stop feeding the pigeons outside St Mark's Church in the town centre. Residents have complained that the titbits of bread dropped by the birds are attracting rats.

Harrison feeds the pigeons from Monday to Saturday, but never on the Lord's Day, and loves them so much he holds bread between his teeth for them to peck it out. "I question the authority of the council," he told the Portadown Times.

This follows hard on Merseyside's pigeon troubles. Liverpool council has run into a storm of controversy by issuing a leaflet discouraging the feeding of these birds, which claimed that it is "often undertaken by individuals with mental health needs". It is considered offensive to imply that sane people do not feed pigeons. Oh, and across the Mersey, in Wallasey, they are upset because a mystery killer has been shooting the pigeons with an air rifle.

Zac flies into another row

There was a small flutter of interest over the weekend when Zac Goldsmith, the photogenic, super-rich Tory MP for Richmond, threatened to resign if the Government decided to construct a third runway at Heathrow. He has said it before, and will surely say it again.

Before his election in May 2010, he made a similar threat to resign if a Tory government closed Kingston Hospital, in his constituency. After the election, the hospital underwent a programme of cost-cutting, which involved a loss of almost 500 jobs.

"Hospitals around the country are having to find savings, and ours is no different," an understanding Mr Goldsmith told residents, who wondered why he had not resigned.

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