Diary: Mandelson 'backs the wrong horse' – this time in China


It is a shame that the Leveson Inquiry could not have stretched its terms of reference yesterday to take in power politics in China, for that is a subject on which their star witness, Peter Mandelson, might have had some interesting insights.

Keeping up a lifetime's habit of courting friendships with the powerful, Lord Mandelson went to a lot of trouble to build a working relationship with a rising star of the Chinese leadership, Bo Xilai – which came to nothing when Bo's wife was accused of organising the murder of a British businessman, Neil Haywood, and he was removed from his place on the Politburo.

Someone in a position to know tells me that as news of Bo's downfall came through, Lord Mandelson's phone rang, and a gloating voice with a Chinese accent told him: "You backed the wrong horse."

Peerless talent for historic omission

A curiosity of our system, as I have mentioned before, is that when someone is made a life peer, it really is for life. They can bring disgrace on their office, and go to prison, and still hold on to their status as peers of the realm. John Taylor, aka Lord Taylor of Warwick, was sentenced to a year in prison in May last year for a £12,000 expenses fiddle.

Since his release, after three months, he has been redesigning his website, the masthead of which is adorned by a photograph of Lord Taylor, resplendent in his ermine robes of office. There is a section called "Taylor's Tips", in which he advises visitors to the site to start the day with a drink of warm, previously boiled water, and there is a biography which seems to end in 2007.

In the section headed "About Me" he lists "my worst experience" as "going ocean fishing in the Atlantic after a full breakfast". Could "full breakfast" be code for porridge? If so, it is the only mention anywhere on the website of his brush with the law.

Greece's wealth of political cranks

We don't know exactly whom Ken Clarke had in mind on Sunday when he appealed to Greek voters not to put their trust in "cranky extremists", but we can safely assume that it includes the Golden Dawn Party, which holds 21 seats in the Greek parliament, and whose symbol bears a disturbing resemblance to a swastika.

One of its leaders, a vet named Ioannis Vouldis, explained to the French news magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur: "We don't dispute Hitler was a war criminal. But did he really kill as many as people say? And what about Nagasaki – a genocide? Our reflection on these matters, clearly, annoys the Americans and Jewish bankers who rule the world..." The influence of these cranks could spread as the Greek crisis worsens.

A tax on the rich's sexual opportunity

The Taxpayers' Alliance were proudly distributing at the weekend an immense tome, 417 pages arguing the case for substantial tax cuts. All of us should have read it to the end, but not many did, so respect to the Political Scrapbook for unearthing a gem on page 92. The author Matt Ridley delves into anthropology and human psychology to explain why it is that we want the rich to pay tax.

It is because "the man with the most money still gets more sexual opportunities than the man with the least money... it's at least partly plain old sexual jealousy at root."

This inspired dozens of Twitter gags about the chat-up lines that these lotharios from the TPA might use. Sample: "Assets aren't the only thing I shall be stripping tonight."

Scots keep a tight grip on power

I knew times are austere, but just how austere was brought home to our northern correspondent, Jonathan Brown, when he arrived at Edinburgh Sheriff's Court to cover a trial, only to have the power cable from his laptop confiscated. He was told this was an edict of the Scottish Court Service, who have had a problem with visitors "stealing electricity".

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