Diary: We don't need no free school education, Mr Gibb

  • @andymcsmith

Ah free schools, David Cameron said last week, "symbolise everything that is good about the revolution that we are bringing to Britain's schools: choice for parents... free schools work and parents and teachers want more of them. So more is what they are going to get".

In that case, how many parents applied to send their children to the free academy being opened in Newham, in north London, with backing from an Essex-based company called Redeemer Education Services, the Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg inquired, in a parliamentary question. The Schools minister, Nick Gibb, did not give a reply to the question asked. Instead, he announced that the department is dropping the idea of opening an academy in Newham.

But Mr Twigg probably knew the answer before he asked the question, because Newham's Labour council is making no secret of it. The number of parents who made the Newham Free Academy their first choice of school for their children this autumn was nil.

Yo Karzai, your microphone is on

President Hamid Karzai had a "Yo Blair" moment during his joint press conference with David Cameron in Kabul. "Yo Blair" is what George Bush is reputed to have said at a G8 summit in 2006, not realising that the microphones were switched on – though it has been claimed that he actually said "Yeah Blair". President Karzai also momentarily forgot about the live mics yesterday, when he was overheard asking Mr Cameron why the Daily Telegraph's Rowena Mason, who had just asked a question on Syria, was wearing a headscarf. Cameron replied that it was to show respect.

Eurosceptics can't Express an interest

With the Tory right on the warpath over David Cameron's latest refusal to call a referendum on whether to leave the EU, it seemed a good moment to check on the progress of an e-petition the Daily Express launched on the Downing Street website a year ago, calling for just such a referendum. Any petition with more 100,000 names is considered for debate in the House of Commons.

The Express was claiming to have 65,000 supporters lined up as far back as last August, and yet the number of actual signatories is a little under 60,000, and the deadline for signing will expire in two weeks.

Peace-loving Tory finds love, not war

The former Tory MP Michael Bates is taking seriously Britain's "Olympic Truce" campaign, which calls upon combatants anywhere in the world to lay down their arms while the games are on. He has walked 3,000 miles across Europe to publicise it. It remains to be seen whether or not this admirable commitment has any positive effect on any of the world's trouble spots, but it has certainly done great things for the home life of Lord Bates. Just before he set off in April, he was invited to a dinner being held for the Speaker of the North Korean Parliament at the London home of an architect, Xuelin Li. They discussed his planned walk and when he ran into difficulties in riot-torn Athens, she volunteered to go out with spare kit. That was the beginning of more than just a beautiful friendship. The couple are getting married today in the chapel inside Parliament.

Final appeal by killers on 'whole life' tariffs

Three multiple killers have been given a final chance to convince European judges that Britain is wrong to deny them any hope that one day they will be let out of prison. They include Jeremy Bamber, who has spent 26 years denying that he murdered five members of his adoptive family, including two young boys, though his protestations of innocence are not widely believed.

He and two other convicted murderers, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore, all have "whole life" tariffs, meaning that there is almost no chance that they will ever be released. In January, the European Court of Human Rights threw out their claim that the tariffs amount to degrading and inhumane treatment. Vintner, who spent nine years in prison for murder, and while he was out on licence, killed again, has lodged an appeal on behalf of all three. The case will be heard in Strasbourg in November.