Diary: The Tory pin-up becoming a thorn in Cameron's side


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The Independent Online

When Zac Goldsmith joined the new wave of Conservative MPs, he was billed as David Cameron's kind of Tory – young, metrosexual, incorruptible, and green. Even before he arrived in Parliament, he was given a lead role in determining party policy on the environment. Last year, he was invited to be the Prime Minister's personal envoy on fighting global warming and saving rainforests.

The first sign of it all going horribly wrong was when, in October, Goldsmith was among the 81 Tory rebels who voted in favour of a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. He was due to carry out his first assignment in his envoy role two days later, meeting the President of Gabon, but that did not happen. He was sacked before he had started.

Being sacked has given him the freedom to say what he likes. At a public meeting this week, Goldsmith remarked that far from creating the "responsible capitalism" recently promised by David Cameron, the Government had a "policy vacuum" when it came to the banks, energy companies and other big corporations.

Writing on the PoliticsHome website, he dissected the Government's promise that MPs who become embroiled in scandal will be subject to recall by their voters. Goldsmith concluded: "It looked like a promise kept. However, the small print tells a different story: the Government's proposals don't merely fall short of genuine Recall; they aren't in any meaningful sense Recall at all."

There are other perennial Tory rebels. Analysis by this newspaper made Goldsmith the fourth most rebellious of the MPs first elected in 2010. But there is no other rebel as televisual as Goldsmith, who is shaping up to be a major pain in Cameron's neck.

Prescott booed over Falklands

The most interesting comment during the BBC's Question Time programme the night before last was one that was never broadcast, but was relayed to the outside world via Twitter by the panellist Owen Jones. During the pre-record warm-up, the panel was asked if they agreed with Ben Fogle, TV presenter and friend of Prince William, that the American actor Sean Penn should be fed to crocodiles for his highly publicised statement that the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina.

John Prescott startled the audience by declaring that he agreed with Penn. He had voted against sending a naval convoy to reclaim the islands in 1982, and regarded the episode as a hangover from colonial times. I am told the audience booed. Shame we couldn't watch.

Even the richest council is skint

You know times are hard when the richest parish council in the country has to start charging residents just to keep going.

The ancient parish of Almondsbury, in Gloucestershire, whose existence is documented as far back as 1086, was chopped in half in the 1960s by the intersection of the M4 and M5.

Then, in their wisdom, the planners decided to allow the new town of Bradley Stoke to be built on rural land south of the two motorways. The parish council sold five acres of old allotments to the builders for £3.2m.

The little council has thrived on that windfall ever since, investing in capital projects and using the interest to run the council's affairs without troubling the residents for money. Now that is over.

"The financial climate over the past few years has meant the income from the portfolio has reduced drastically from £88,000 in 2007/08 to under £50,000 in 2010/11. Costs have risen and the cushion of reserved income has been used," Councillor Sheila Fulton has told the Bristol Evening Post.

Trump clubs golf resort critic

The billionaire Donald Trump causes controversy wherever he goes. The man who led the nationwide debate in the US about whether Barack Obama has a valid birth certificate also plans to build a golf resort in the north of Scotland, despite vehement opposition from some of the locals. Last month, plans for a new clubhouse caused a furious debate on the Formartine area committee of Aberdeenshire council.

Councillor Debra Storr, a leading opponent, said that the proposed design of the club house was laughable, and reminded her of a "Victorian lunatic asylum". After the meeting, according to The Scotsman, Trump's man, George Sorial, told her: "You're a disgrace. You are going to be looking for another job in May."

A coterie of seven councillors – two Tories, two Lib Dems and three from the SNP – have signed a joint letter to the Standards Committee accusing Ms Storr of breaching the local government code of conduct. Her colleagues in the Democratic Independent Group have countered by accusing the seven of abusing the complaints committee.