Diary: Taxi for Abbott! Cabbies call on MP to quit in Twitter row


You wonder whether Labour MP Diane Abbott will use Twitter again.

She spent Thursday morning fending off the news media after a badly-phrased tweet about race was spotted hours after it was posted, sparking a Twitter frenzy in the middle of the night. Then somebody scrolled down to read her earlier tweets, and found this, posted on Tuesday: "Dubious of black people claiming they've never experienced racism. Ever tried hailing a taxi I always wonder?"

Steve McNamara, of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, was invited to comment, and let fly. "We find it amazing that in this day and age someone in Diane Abbott's position can try to resurrect the stereotypes from the 1960s. At worst she is racist and at best she is stupid in making comments like that. Either way, she should go," Mr McNamara said.

Ed Miliband might have been expected to halt Twitter fiascos, but he decided to start one of his own. With so much happening in the world, he thought it important to share his thoughts on the death of ex-TV host Bob Holness.

"Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters," said the original tweet on the Labour leader's feed. A second version, a few minutes later, changed "Blackbusters" to "Blockbusters".

"Just because the words came from him doesn't mean his fingers were on the keyboard," says a source.

I'll have an 'o', Bob.

If only Cameron had seen the film

There was a predictable quality to David Cameron's remarks yesterday about the film The Iron Lady – that Meryl Streep, pictured, is brilliant, but that the film should not have been made while Mrs T is still alive – but Mr C's throwaway remark in praise of Malcolm McDowell's performance in the film If... was a puzzler. That film, which came out when Mr Cameron was just a year old, is about the most excoriating attack on the public school system ever committed to celluloid. Has he actually seen it?

New Tory MEP has ghost of a chance

Brussels watchers will have noted that Roger Helmer, aged 67, is still a Conservative MEP for the East Midlands, despite having announced his intention to stand down on 31 December.

The reason is that he is involved in a stand-off with Conservative HQ over who will take his place. Under the normal rules of the list system used for European elections, the seat would automatically be filled by Rupert Matthews, the nearest Tory runner-up in the 2009 election. But Mr Matthews is a self-proclaimed expert on ghosts and alien intrusions. His most recent blog, on Thursday, was about Roswell, in New Mexico, the place where he and others believe that an alien spacecraft crashlanded.

Mr Helmer believes that the rules should be applied. He is not impressed that someone at Tory HQ might have concluded that Mr Matthews is away with the fairies. In his latest blog post, he said he would be "very angry indeed" if Mr Matthews' candidature were blocked, and implied he will not budge unless he gets his way. "CCHQ have some administrative problems with the succession process, and naturally I want to see those resolved before I sign on the dotted line," he wrote.

Hanging petition leaves people cold

Paul Staines, the blogger known as Guido Fawkes, is having a few problems with his campaign to reinstate the death penalty. His e-petition on the Downing Street website in July has attracted fewer than 26,000 signatures, and his Restore Justice campaign has been ticked off by the Advertising Standards Authority for a "misleading" advertisement that "the murder rate has doubled" since hangmen put away the rope in 1964.

Annoyingly, the published data suggest the advertisement was rather accurate. Restore Justice was faulted on technical grounds, because it used statistics for "homicides" not "murders", and because it relied on a House of Commons document published in 1999, while homicide figures for England and Wales have been falling since 2002.

The Home Office does not publish separate statistics for murder, so figures for "homicides", which include manslaughter and infanticide, are all we can go on. There have also been changes in methods of recording since the 1960s.

But the facts are that in the year to September 2010 there were 619 recorded "homicides" in England and Wales, a rate of 13.5 per million of population. In calendar year 1964 there were 244 "murders", and the "homicide" ratio was below 6.8 per million head of population.

The murder rate has roughly doubled since 1964. There are some good arguments against executing criminals. This is not one of them.

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