Andy McSmith: The murder suspect who visited Downing Street


When David Cameron posed for a photograph at an Eid celebration in Downing Street, he presumably did not know that the man next but one to him has been accused of murder. A warrant issued in Pakistan names four men suspected of a “revenge” killing in Domian village, in the Gujrat District, on 1 May 2012. Four gunmen entered the home of the victim, Muhammad Ilyas, and shot him twice.

One of the names on the warrant is Abdul Aziz, from Nelson in Lancashire. When the murder was committed, he had recently been elected a Labour councillor. Subsequently, he fell out with his party colleagues on Pendle Council, was suspended from the Labour group, and in September, defected to the Conservatives. His invitation to Downing Street came  via Pendle’s Tory MP, Andrew Stephenson.

I tried to contact Councillor Aziz without success on Monday, but I see from the Lancashire Telegraph that he has vehemently denied any involvement in the murder in Pakistan, saying that he was in Lancashire at the time. “This is an incident that has devastated my family. It is my cousin who has died,” he was quoted as saying.

And of course the fact that his name is on a warrant is no proof that he has done anything wrong.

Even so, after news of his Downing Street visit was posted on the Political Scrapbook website, Graham Jones, the Labour MP for the nearby seat of Hyndburn, reacted as if Mr Cameron’s life had been put at risk. He has complained that it was “unbelievable” that a “murder suspect” could be introduced to the Prime Minister, and announced that he is writing to the Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, about the “security risk”.

Salmond’s red-letter day over visas

I fear the strain of the forthcoming Scottish referendum is making Alex Salmond paranoid. He has fired off an incandescent letter to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, about two Chinese teachers who have been denied entry visas.

Scotland’s First Minister, who is in China, seems to see the refusal as an English plot. “This amounts to sabotage of a programme that everyone thinks [is] absolutely fantastic and [is] doing great work in Scotland,” he said. Well, possibly. Or it may just be a case of officials doing what they do: spotting little errors in the way forms have been filled in.

Colourful Brown was picture perfect

Stylist magazine records the surprised reaction of the portrait photographer, Rankin, aka John Rankin Waddell, to one of the many famous people who have sat for him: “Gordon Brown. He was so clever, charming and bright – not what I expected.”

Ed’s shake-up hasn’t quite settled yet

Ed Miliband put a few noses out of joint when he reorganised the Labour Party structure early last year. One of the changes was to abolish the post of Deputy General Secretary held by a long serving Labour staffer, Alicia Kennedy, who had virtually run the party organisation in the difficult years of Gordon Brown’s premiership. The visitors’ galleries of the House of Lords were packed yesterday with spectators during the brief ceremony when she was invested as Baroness Kennedy of Cradley. The size of the turnout suggests that that same discontent lingers on.

Paxman’s revised clarity gets my vote

The interview that Jeremy Paxman conducted with Russell Brand has been seen by millions, via YouTube, making it – I assume – the most watched item ever broadcast on Newsnight. It has also attracted a vast volume of written commentary.

The latest comes from Paxman himself, in the Radio Times. Brand, he writes, has “something irresistible about him… The moment he arrived in the hotel room booked for the encounter, trailing PR people, make-up artist and assistant, I identified the roles we had been dealt, for I was in the dismal subfusc of the newsman – suit and tie – while he was all hair and scarf. I should have to play Ernie to his Eric.”

However much he may have been charmed, Paxman  at least dissents from Brand’s subversive suggestion that it is pointless to vote.  “In one recent election, I decided not to vote, because I thought the choice so unappetising,” Paxman confesses.“By the time the polls had closed… I was feeling really uncomfortable: the person who chooses not to vote – cannot even be bothered to write ‘none of the above’ on a ballot paper – disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all.”