Winterton back on the rack over non-existent surgeries

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* Ann Winterton, the Tory backbencher who was temporarily expelled from her party for joking about the Chinese cockle pickers killed in Morecambe Bay, has been thrust right back into the political spotlight.

* Ann Winterton, the Tory backbencher who was temporarily expelled from her party for joking about the Chinese cockle pickers killed in Morecambe Bay, has been thrust right back into the political spotlight.

The outspoken MP for Congleton has been reported to Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, after it emerged that she has failed to hold a single constituency surgery during her 21 years in Westminster.

Nick Milton, the Labour candidate who will contest the seat at the next election, has written to Sir Philip saying this ought to put her in breach of her duty as an MP.

"In the last two years, Winterton has been sacked from the shadow front bench, and then had the whip withdrawn for making racist remarks," he says.

"The fact that your code of conduct doesn't specify what is expected of MPs in terms of surgeries is a major omission."

Not for the first time, Winterton was unapologetic yesterday. She declined to speak to Pandora, but instead released a statement.

"I have developed a way of serving my constituents over 21 years, which works and works effectively, and which has been endorsed at four general elections," it says.

"I do not think it appropriate that a young man from London, who has never been elected an MP, should seek to advise me on how to represent my constituents."

* SOME CONFUSION surrounds Kate Winslet's decision to pull out of Saturday's Parkinson show, at just a few days notice.

The actress, left - in London promoting her new film Finding Neverland - cancelled her appearance at the last minute, forcing the 1970s' pop icon Donny Osmond to step into the breach.

Winslet's spokesman blames logistical difficulties for her non-appearance, saying: "Kate was unable to get to the UK before Friday, and they record on Thursday nights."

However, Parky was given quite a different excuse.

"She and Sam Mendes had a clash that night," says his spokesman.

"One of them always stays in with the children and he had to be out, so she was babysitting and couldn't make it."

It's unlikely that they are both telling the truth, so what's going on? Surely Winslet isn't too scared to tussle with Parky's rapier wit?

* LET'S HOPE the judges of tonight's Booker Prize are more conscientious than Joanna Lumley, who (a trifle controversially) became the first celebrity on their panel almost 20 years ago.

At the Cheltenham Festival of Literature on Saturday, Lumley, above, admitted that she hadn't bothered to read all the entries when she occupied the hot seat in 1985.

"There were 112 books on the long list, and I thought: 'Gosh, I can't do that'," she said. "So one of my fellow panellists said: 'Just read the first 30 pages and see if you like it. But make sure you flick through and read the end, in case it finishes in Swahili or something'."

No wonder they never asked her back!

* THE PRESS Complaints Commission has thrown out John Coldstream's complaint against the Daily Mail .

As this column revealed, Coldstream was upset by the Mail 's serialisation of his biography of Dirk Bogarde, describing it as a "travesty", which misleadingly presented the late actor as a cruel misogynist.

The case was one of the oddest in PCC history, as Coldstream was complaining about an article bearing his own byline. But now it is finished.

"I've really said all I want to say about this, but the PCC has dismissed my complaint," he tells me. "That's self-regulation for you. Suffice it to say that I won't be expecting a very good review from the Mail ."

* Beryl Bainbridge has experienced a "wobble" in her attempt to kick her 30-a-day cigarette habit.

On Friday, the grande dame of English letters, right - who had possibly drunk a glass of wine too many - cadged a fag off the chain-smoking Neil Kinnock, in the writers' room at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature.

It's a shame: since quitting the weed in January, Bainbridge has suffered from writers' block. However, she recently told this column that she had managed to put pen to paper once more.

"I only gave up [smoking] because I had to, or I'd lose a leg," she admitted at the time. "I miss it terribly."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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