Ed Miliband was looking chipper as he addressed the annual press gallery lunch in the Commons yesterday. He obviously feels that his last exchange with David Cameron across the floor before MPs begin their summer break proved that he can hold his own in that bear pit. As he half admitted, that means very little outside the Westminster village but is good for the morale of his Labour MPs.
He came to the meal armed with some good jokes, two of which referred to his days as Gordon Brown's special adviser. "The thing you'll be pleased to hear," he said, "is that like all politicians, I don't bear grudges. I learnt that from Gordon."
Miliband also mentioned his recent meeting with the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at which they talked about living for years under a brutal dictatorship "oppressed night and day" – until she said: "That's enough about Gordon."
Recalling the time when someone in his office tweeted in his name about the death of Bob Holness, paying tribute to the presenter as the host of "Blackbusters" rather than Blockbusters, he said: "I deeply regret the Bob Holness 'Blackbusters' episode, I am, though, very relieved he never presented Treasure Hunt."
He also risked offending the Murdoch journalists in the room with another gag: "There are no hard feelings between me and News International. They want me to lose the next election. I want them to go to jail."
Mining a rich seam of Labour history
One of the great events in the trades union calendar used to be the Durham Miners' Gala, back in the days when almost every village in that county was a pit village. In Victorian times, it drew such glittering speakers as the Russian anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, making his first public appearance after escaping from St Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress in the 1870s. But the Labour leader Neil Kinnock gave it a miss in the 1987 election year, and the gala has struggled to draw big-name speakers since. Tomorrow, however, Mr Miliband will speak – the first Labour leader do so in 25 years. Dave Hopper, who heads what remains of the Durham miners' union, told the Sunderland Echo Miliband could pull in an extra 20,000 punters, giving the event its biggest turnout for many years.
March them to the top of The Shard...
A sight worth seeing in September will be the Duke of York leading 40 volunteers abseiling down the side of Europe's tallest building – The Shard at London Bridge. Among those joining him will be Ffion Hague, wife of the Foreign Secretary. Money raised will go to the Outward Bound Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.
Clegg's cold steel city
Sheffield, which counts Nick Clegg among its MPs, has lost a Liberal Democrat city councillor. Clive Skelton, who used to be the party's chief whip on the authority, said he spent "four or five sleepless nights" before deciding to jump ship to Labour. "When I joined, the [Lib Dems were] left-of-centre," he explained. "I just felt uncomfortable now the party isn't in that place anymore."
Pensioner bitches about Boles
Joan Collins is displeased that wealthy pensioners will lose their winter fuel payments and other state-funded perks if David Cameron's old sidekick Nick Boles gets his way. "Shocked that a Tory MP wants to strip pensioners of various benefits," she tweeted. "They earned it, Nick – back off!" She may not look it but Collins turns 80 in May and will soon be eligible for higher-rate winter fuel payments. Whether she needs help making ends meet is not a question I am qualified to address.Reuse content