Diary: You're not welcome in the House of Cards, says Dobbs


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The Independent Online

Having served his sentence for fiddling his expenses, the former Tory peer John Taylor made a bad mistake when he insouciantly told The Daily Telegraph how he was looking forward to resuming his seat next summer, and giving their lordships the benefit of his hard-earned experience of prison life.

He and his fellow expenses cheat Lord Hanningfield are beneficiaries of a quirk in the constitution which means that no peer can ever be expelled from the House of Lords. Suspending Lord Taylor's membership for a year was the worst they could do.

It was Lord Dobbs – better known as Michael Dobbs, author of the novel on which the television series House of Cards was based – who broke the stony silence that greeted the formal announcement of their suspension.

He is one of the new peers, having been there less than a year, and a Tory who campaigned for John Taylor when he was Conservative candidate in Cheltenham years ago, yet he vigorously objected to the prospect of either of the disgraced peers showing their faces in Parliament ever again. They are likely now to get a formal letter from the Privileges and Conduct Committee telling them that they are not welcome.

"It was a difficult thing to do, particularly being a new boy," Lord Dobbs said, "but nobody has come to me to say they disagreed with me, and I have had dozen of letters and approaches from people saying they agreed."

With a family like his...

Defrauding the taxpayer is not the sole preserve of parliamentarians. John Holden, a former Labour councillor from Inverness, was arrested earlier this year for fiddling £43,000-worth of benefits. One of his sons travelled from Ireland to give evidence against him at his trial; another son described him as "morally bankrupt"; his ex-wife said he "was not a good person"; he was convicted, booted out of the Labour Party, and sentenced to a year in prison. Still, into every life must fall a ray of sunshine. The Highland News reports that he is to walk free today, after just three months behind bars. Some people locally think he got off lightly.

Speaker admits he had words with wife

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, was asked when he addressed a Press Gallery lunch yesterday whether it was true that he had words with his wife, Sally, about her publicity-seeking activities, such as her brief appearance in August on Big Brother. "Such conversations have taken place," said Mr Bercow, as his wife, sitting nearby, listened attentively. "But we are independent of one another. It would be wrong for me to try to browbeat her and it would also be ineffective." To which Sally replied: "Thanks, honey!"

Modesty never forbids him

Bernard-Henri Levy, France's rock star philosopher, known to his adoring fans as BHL, is credited with being the adviser who alerted Nicolas Sarkozy to the importance of the rebellion that broke out in Libya in March. The French President seemed to have nothing much to say as the Arab Spring swept through Tunisia and Egypt, but suddenly roused himself and was more vocal than any other political leader when Gaddafi was in trouble.

BHL has turned out a 600-page tome, without a trace of false modesty. Barack Obama and David Cameron will love this excerpt, from page 456: "Sarkozy declared to me 'when this war has been won, the world will see that it was us and the Libyans who won it, full stop'."

Of his own personal role in winning the war, BHL remarks, on page 336: "There has been one precedent for a French writer starting a war, and that is Chateaubriand." He meant François-René de Chateaubriand, known to historians as the writer and diplomat who persuaded King Louis XVIII to invade Spain in 1822, though he is better known to us as a succulent steak.

Police pie squadout in force

The security operation ahead of James Murdoch's arrival yesterday at the House of Commons was immense, with dozens of police in flak jackets making sure members of the public formed orderly queues before being thoroughly frisked on their way into the committee room. Further along the Embankment, they were stopping cars at random, and handing leaflets to passers-by inviting anyone whose suspicions were roused to call Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist hotline. It was expensive, but since no one shoved a custard pie in Master James's face, it could be said to have worked.

Hacking – the Movie is eagerly awaited

The hacking saga is sure to be turned into a film or television drama soon. In case the casting director is short of ideas, Nick Frost, fresh from playing Thomson – or was he Thompson? – in Tintin tweeted yesterday: "I can't wait to play Tom Watson!" He also nominated Nicole Kidman to play the flame-haired Rebecca Brookes.