The Week In Westminster: Jonathan Aitken was my legal adviser

WHEN I had to resign as a junior government whip in 1994, Jonathan Aitken wrote to me: "However much outward support you get, it is your own inner soul and strength that will win the comeback battle for you." Sadly, Aitken's ability to give good advice to others was not matched by his willingness to apply it to himself. In the same letter, he continued: "Don't rush into legal proceedings. You can hold a position for months with the line that you are taking legal advice. Suing could be worse than not suing."

u

TONY BLAIR displayed a surprising lack of triumphalismin the Commons, despite having his authority in Parliament and the world greatly streng- thened by Kosovo.

As he exorcised the ghosts of Tory claims, before the election, that Labour was soft on defence and foreign affairs, one might have expected greater talk of "victory".

But there was a notable absence of "Rejoice, rejoice" so beloved of Baroness Thatcher in similar circumstances, and a genuine anxiety to play down his role of war leader.

Most MPs on all sides now accept he has passed the ultimate test of leadership, and the "Bambi" image of the boy in a man's world, which the Tories originally sought to create, has been blown apart.

Mr Blair's immediate willingness to share the credit with Robin Cook, George Robertson and, pointedly, Clare Short, means their positions in the Cabinet are utterly secure. By comparison, Lady Thatcher dispensed quickly with the services of her defence and foreign secretaries (Sir John Nott and Frances Pym) who were never allowed to share in her Falklands glory.

Robin Cook, who looked shaky a year ago, has had a "good war" and although more in the background than George Robertson, now looks impregnable at the Foreign Office.

The problem is how to reward George Robertson, who would have been a natural successor to Mr Cook had he "messed up". It all looks likely to mean no change in the Cabinet, with talk of reshuffle this summer confined to junior ranks.

There are few political gainers from the war on the Tory side although, ironically, Michael Howard, who leaves the front bench in the next fortnight, made the most coherent criticisms of the conduct of the war. He returns to the back benches with felllow Tories feeling guilty at losing the most experienced member of their old guard.

u

THE FORMER Tory minister Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) made a powerful speech during a debate on Lords reform, calling on both main parties to loosen the control their whips wield over backbenchers. He suggested that, but for the whips, Tory MPs would never have voted for the community charge or the Maastricht treaty, at least without a referendum clause.

But Mr Hogg was forced to admit his inglorious past as a government whip when the Tory frontbencher Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) said he had been "dreadful" at the job. Mr Hogg acknowledged that "having taken the Queen's salt, I performed my functions with enthusiasm - as my Hon Friend says, I was dreadful. I was certainly a vigorous whip, but I acted disapproving of myself."

In a sideswipe at Sir Patrick, he added: "If I may say so, I did not necessarily have a high regard for those of my colleagues to whom I gave instruction."

u

THE ELECTION of Hilary Benn as Labour MP for Leeds West brings full circle the campaign of his father, Tony, for the rights of hereditary peers to stand and be elected for a seat in the Commons.

Tony was disqualified as MP for Bristol South East when he inherited the title of Viscount Stansgate on the death of his father in 1960. Although re-elected in the by-election caused by his own disqualification, an election court awarded the Commons seat to his Tory rival.

It took a change in the law by means of the Peerage Act in 1963 for Tony to renounce the title (held in abeyance until his death) and return to the Commons. Ironically, the present Lords reforms would enable Hilary, if still elected, to sit in the Commons as the 3rd Viscount Stansgate on Tony's death (which we hope will be centuries hence).

u

WILLIAM HAGUE looks likely to do well enough in the European elections to stave off, temporarily, further speculation over his leadership (to the relief of Tony Blair as much as the Tory hierarchy). The probable turn-out of 25 per cent means Labour will suffer disproportionately. In fairness, Mr Hague did have a good campaign against Labour by focusing on the single currency as a single issue. This is the only issue on which the Tories have brought clarity, even at the price of the probable expulsion of "One Nation" grandees such as Lord Gilmour and Nicholas Scott.

Some MPs are saying constitutional reform offers a similar opportunity for clarity and the Tories should outflank Labour on Lords reform and devolution. Most Tory backbenchers are supporting an elected upper chamber and believe the front bench should go for a simple alternative to Labour's continued equivocation.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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 General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker