The Diary: Brussels promises unseen levels of inactivity

When Belgian trade unions get stroppy, they cause disruption on a scale to make Bob Crow green with envy. When David Cameron and other heads of government assemble in Brussels on Monday for a session of the European Council, they will see a city at a standstill.

Advice has gone out that anyone thinking of arriving by rail or air should book a hotel room for Sunday night and be in Brussels by 10pm, because after that hour, says an advice note, "public transport in Brussels will be heavily disrupted or even non-existent". Those going by car should expect heavy jams, not to mention demonstrations and roadblocks. And they will not be able to look forward to the usual lavish free nosh when they finally get through, because the caterers will be on strike, too, although there will be sandwiches and drinks.

The dispute is over cuts that will make it harder to retire early and reductions in unemployment benefit.

A pox on both your houses

Talks between Westminster and the Scottish Executive over plans for a referendum on independence have run into a spot of bother – or, rather, a lot of spots. The Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, has had to cancel his meeting with the First Minister, Alex Salmond, because he has gone down with chicken pox.

Any other Cabinet ministers who did not have the disease in childhood could be in for similar problems because Downing Street says Moore was "infectious and contagious" when he attended a Cabinet meeting earlier in the week.

A peerless fighter for his own cause

We do not hear much about Lord Black of Crossharbour in this country. The former proprietor of the Daily Telegraph has not set foot in the House of Lords for years because of his travails with the US legal system. He was jailed for fraud in 2007, released in 2010, and sent back to prison last June – none of which affects his status in the UK as a life peer.

But Americans are treated regularly to Lord Black's views on current affairs, via the Huffington Post and National Review online. This month he has called for a show of force against Iran, railed against Barack Obama and Warren Buffet, paid fulsome tribute to Margaret Thatcher, and backed Jeb Bush to be the next US President. But the peer, pictured right, displays his greatest eloquence when discussing the "colossal injustices and failures in the US justice criminal system". Lord Black is unswervingly convinced of one thing – he is an innocent man, wrongly imprisoned.

Heir stands aside to be with Wallis

The husband of Diana Wallis, the Liberal Democrat MEP who quit her seat after failing in her bid to be elected president of the European Parliament, has decided not to keep the job in the family. The rules of the "list" system of proportional representation used to elect MEPs gave Stewart Arnold an automatic right to take his wife's place, a prospect that so appalled another Liberal Democrat MEP, Chris Davies, that he resigned his post as chief whip.

Yesterday, Mr Arnold voluntarily pulled out. Rebecca Taylor, another Liberal Democrat, is now entitled to the seat if she wants it.

Spring conferences lose their bounce

Spring conferences used to be the second-biggest items on a political party's calendar. It was a chance for party stalwarts to spend a pleasant weekend arguing, plotting, and mingling with the famous, under the gimlet eyes of the mass media. But where there used to be three of these events, this year there is only one, for the Liberal Democrats, who will spend three days in Gateshead in March being democratic.

The cash-strapped Labour Party has cancelled its spring conference outright, while the Tories have reduced theirs to a single day's gathering in central London with no journalists but just one television camera sending pooled pictures to all channels.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy