Diary: May dispenses some tough justice at Clarke's expense


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The Independent Online

It's best not to mess with Theresa May. There was a sharp edge to the Home Secretary's exchange with Ken Clarke as they accepted the Spectator Parliamentary award for Double Act of the Year.

The Laurel and Hardy turn that earned them the award was their famous spat during the Conservative Party conference over whether or not an illegal Bolivian immigrant was given permission to stay in the UK because he owned a cat, rather than an ongoing dispute about prison sentences.

Accepting the award, Mrs May remarked – "Ken, I lock 'em up, you let 'em out." She, of course, had time to work that one out, while the Justice Secretary had to respond off the cuff. His reply was not bad under the circumstances. He said: "She puts them in and somebody has to make room for them" – but her dig is the one that is inevitably going to be quoted, time and again.

The premier league of womanisers

At the same function, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, told a tale he has been bursting to tell since he returned from a summit in Kazakhstan last December but couldn't, until now, in case he set off a diplomatic incident. That summit was the sole occasion on which he met Silvio Berlusconi. Italy's ex-premier's opening words to him were: "I've slept with more women than your Prime Minister." Sam Cam will be pleased to know that.

I think you mean Tony Blair, Ed

Ed Miliband made what sounded very like a dig at Tony Blair yesterday as he cosied up to the former Foreign Secretary David Owen at a meeting of the Social Market Foundation.

Lord Owen was one of the "Gang of Four" who broke with Labour in 1981 and launched the rival Social Democratic Party, complaining that Labour had swerved too far to the left.

Mr Miliband quipped that he could have been the fourth member of the Gang of Four, because some of the ideas Owen advocated in the 1980s, such as the social market, were seen then by many people in the Labour Party as dangerously right-wing but now they would be seen as dangerously left-wing. "That is the way politics changes," he remarked. He did not name the agent of change who took the Labour Party so far to the right that it passed by David Owen, but we know who he meant.

Nothing for MPs to do, it would seem

There seems to be no satisfactory explanation as to why MPs are currently on another week's holiday. The normal reason for an autumn break was to mark the end of one session of Parliament and the start of the next with the ceremony of the Queen's Speech, but the Government has decided to put the Queen's Speech back to an unspecified date in the spring.

Having prolonged the session for up to six months, they couldn't think of anything for the Commons to do.

In the House of Lords, which has carried on working, Maurice Peston, father of the BBC's Business Editor, told peers that as well as being an exceptionally long one, it "has now also become about the most boring session of my 25 years in this House".

Football. It's a funny old game

"You're ignorant" screamed the headline on the Daily Mail's coverage of Sepp Blatter's suggestion that footballers who suffer racist abuse should shake hands when the game is over and forget it. Would this be the same Daily Mail that on 26 October suggested to Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra that "things may not be perfect but, at the end of the day, there are worse things to complain about. So, Mr Evra and Mr Ferdinand, perhaps you could just put up with it and get on with the game..."?

The big PR moment passes Church by

Overheard: "We've spent decades trying to get the words 'What would Jesus do?' in the newspapers, and now protesters have managed it while the Church is worrying about health and safety." – a vicar talking to a correspondent for the Church Times, in the vicinity of St Paul's, as reported in this month's Prospect magazine.