Diary: Ukip's Tory defectors could be thorn in the side for PM


The UK Independence Party has more reason than any other to complain about the British election system: despite winning 900,000 votes at the last general election it has no MPs. In the European Parliament, which is elected by proportional representation, the party has a dozen MEPs.

Another quirk of the system is that MPs and MEPs can switch parties without consulting the people who voted for them and yet remain in their seat for the remainder of the Parliament. Last month, Ukip gained an MEP because a long-serving Tory, Roger Helmer, fell out with the party chairman, Baroness Warsi.

And yesterday, the voice of the Conservative grass roots, Tim Montgomerie, who runs the ConservativeHome website, announced that he knows of two Tory MPs who are thinking of switching to Ukip.

The only time Ukip has ever had an MP was when the Tory MP for Castle Point, Bob Spink, fell out with his local party in 2008 and defected, but he stayed only a few months. If Ukip suddenly had two MPs – and it's a big if – it could start to become more of a threat for the Tories than Respect is for Labour. Mr Montgomerie's point is that David Cameron needs to watch his right flank.

A special stone at the Abbey for Ted? You must be joking

The decision to create a commemorative stone in Westminster Abbey for the former Tory Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath has prompted a furious letter to the Abbey's Receiver General, Sir Stephen Lamport, from Rodney Atkinson, a prominent member of Ukip and older brother of Rowan, the comedian otherwise known as Edmund Blackadder and Mr Bean.

The letter's sub-headings reflect its general tone: "Lies to Parliament and people... Betrayal of Sovereignty... Awarded Charlemagne Prize (founded by the Nazis). Negotiated with Fascist Spain... Apologist for and beneficiary of Chinese Communism."

The former Labour Premier Jim Callaghan is to receive the same honour, but no one hated Sunny Jim in the way that the Tory right hated Ted Heath.

Imagine no cars – it's easy if you try

Hearing the opening words of the new Green Party election broadcast – "Imagine a city that belongs to people and bikes" – evokes memories of a sentiment expressed 10 years ago by Brian Coleman, Conservative member of the London Assembly: "I consider cycle lanes to be an unnecessary obstruction to cars, for which, of course, roads were built." Once there were no cycle lanes; in Green heaven, there'll be no car lanes.

Something rotten in Reading

If Oscar Wilde were alive now, he might write a Ballad of Reading East, in which "some grow mad and all grow bad", because something is poisoning the political atmosphere in that constituency.

A few months ago, the Tories in Reading East deselected a councillor, Jamie Chowdhary, reputedly because he was too close to the former Tory council leader Andrew Cumpsty, who was on the way out. They threatened to expel another, Mark Ralph, who publicly objected. Baroness Warsi, intervened to prevent Councillor Ralph's expulsion, but to no avail. This week, he announced that he is resigning. Reading East is also the only constituency in a generation where a sitting MP was sacked by the local members of the Labour Party. Jane Griffiths, who lost the seat in 2005, has accused her former colleagues of being "racist" because of an election leaflet in which a Labour council candidate, Eileen McElligott, is described as "one of us" – as if to imply that there is something alien about her opponent, Azam Janjua, who, by the way, used to be a Labour councillor before he switched to the Conservatives.

Caption clanger

The story from China about a British businessman who may have been murdered at the behest of the wife of one of the country's foremost politicians is disturbing enough, without the added element that The Times gave it in its early edition yesterday. According to the picture caption on its front page, the dead Briton was Jeremy Heywood, who is a Knight, the Cabinet Secretary and the country's most senior civil servant. The caption was corrected later to read Neil Heywood.

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