Diary: MPs attack LSE chairman over Gaddafi gift


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The Independent Online

Two senior MPs have called for the resignation of Peter Sutherland, chairman of the London School of Economics, as the controversy about the school's involvement with Libya's Gaddafi regime refuses to go away.

Labour's Barry Sheerman, who has been a governor of the LSE for 20 years, and Tory MP Richard Shepherd, a former LSE student, have written a letter accusing him of having "failed to fully understand the gravity of the situation or to respond adequately to the questions that members of the Court have been raising".

There have been two high-profile departures from the LSE since a scandal blew up over a £1.5m gift from a trust controlled by Saif Gaddafi, the former dictator's son. Sir Howard Davies, director of the LSE, resigned last March, and Professor David Held, Saif Gaddafi's academic adviser, left this month.

But Sutherland is still there. He has a talent for hanging on. In 2009, he faced down calls for his resignation as chairman of BP from shareholders unimpressed by his record as a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland up until its collapse. The two MPs, both veteran parliamentarians, argue that the LSE cannot rebuild its worldwide reputation under his chairmanship.

Tory dinosaurs are getting younger

The Tory MP Aidan Burley has had difficulties in his constituency over that stag party he attended where his friends dressed in Nazi uniforms. But he was in congenial company at the launch in the House of Commons of the Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC).

This body aims to end the practice under which some trade union representatives in the public sector are paid for union activity conducted in working hours.

Its founders are Mr Burley, and Mark Clarke, the former Conservative candidate in Tooting, London, another ambitious young Tory with form. He had a brief relationship with a fellow Tory, Sarah Gill, who afterwards complained to the Mail on Sunday about his bad behaviour, and said the Conservatives and Tooting deserved someone better. The Morning Star featured the TURC meeting on its front page under the heading "Tory Dinosaurs Launch War on Unions" – but that is just not true. These are young guys. They are the Conservative future, a gross attitude to women and ignorance of the Holocaust notwithstanding.

Short, sweet speech is a Pure joy

In addition to picking up the Costa book of the year award for his sixth novel, Pure, Andrew Miller deserves some kind of citation for delivering one of the shortest acceptance speeches on record.

He thanked his publisher and agent, told the assembled luvvies at Quaglino's restaurant that it felt strange to be there after spending three years shut away in his room writing – and then shut up. It lasted barely two minutes.

'Lily' of the Vale is not a happy leader

The Coalition partners maintain a public face of happy solidarity at Cabinet level, but relations are not so good in Aylesbury Vale, in Buckinghamshire, where the Liberal Democrat leader, Steven Lambert, who came out as gay 20 years ago, has complained to the police about four Tory councillors who, he alleges, have been calling him "Lily". They deny it.

Lib Dem's spot of bother in lobby loo

Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell is viewed across the House as an amiable cove, but was unlucky during a debate on the Local Government Finance Bill on Tuesday night.

Stunell wanted to refill his ministerial carafe of water and went into the Members' lobby loo, clutching his empty carafe and looking – one MP joked – like a man who was ready "to give a urine sample".

Then disaster struck. A vote was called, doorkeepers raised the cry of "lock the doors", and as the minister emerged from the toilet he found himself in the "Aye" lobby with Labour MPs. The entrance was locked, and if he left through the exit, he risked being recorded as voting against the government. His plight caused a 15-minute hiatus, as Stunell pleaded to join his own side, with fellow minister, Simon Burns, shouting encouragement.

A Labour MP, Jamie Reed, recorded the moment on twitter. "In the words of Simon Burns, like the spurned lover behind glass in a prison film, 'Stay there Andrew! They can't make you go through!'"