Andy McSmith's Diary: Amber Rudd appears on 'I-already-know-the-Question Time'


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Amber Rudd stepped up to the Dispatch Box to answer questions for the first time in her new capacity as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

She was obviously nervous, particularly about the bit at the end where she would be expected to answer “topical” questions without knowing in advance what they were. This is apparent from the email and follow-up call received by MPs – including at least two Labour MPs – who were due to be called to speak, asking them to submit their questions in advance “in order for the Secretary of State to provide you with the fullest answer possible”.

Tonight, Ms Rudd was on BBC’s Question Time. I wonder, did her people email the studio audience demanding to know what questions they planned to ask the minister?

Silencing the SNP

Another person new to the job is Ian Blackford, who made his debut as a member of the SNP’s front bench to ask the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, a question about child poverty.

His question ran to 420 words, and the sheaf of notes in his hand indicated that it was going to go on much longer, when the Speaker, John Bercow, suggested that “in the interest of the House and the interest of himself” he should shut up.

Don’t be vague with Hague

William Hague has talked about techniques he used to confound Tony Blair during PMQs. They included the “deep minefield” question, which goes something like: “Will the Prime Minister sack any minister who breaks the ministerial code of conduct?”

The Prime Minister has to answer “yes”, although he is bound to wonder why he is being asked.

“Then you sit back and think you know something nobody else knows – even though you don’t, of course, and you wait,” Hague added, according to Total Politics. “And sometimes you wait for about a year-and-a-half and a minister breaks the code of conduct and the bomb explodes.

“It was always Peter Mandelson in my time.”

What price to save planet?

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, spent £40,578 of her party’s funds this year trying to win election as MP for Holborn and St Pancras, comfortably more than the Labour and Conservative candidates combined. She received 7,013 votes. That’s £5.79 per vote. Expensive.

Police back lying fraudster

Gavin Barwell, Tory MP for Croydon Central, has complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Home Secretary Theresa May, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale about the case of a journalist who was given a Police Information Notice.

His complaint involved Neelam Desai, who had pleaded guilty to frauds totalling £230,000. After the court case, the Croydon Advertiser heard from a man who said he had been fleeced of his savings by the same woman. Its chief reporter, Gareth Davies, knocked on Desai’s door, and later emailed her, asking for her side. Rather than reply, she complained to the police that she was being harassed.

Three officers visited Davies in his office to issue a caution. The newspaper complained to the Met on his behalf, and later to the IPCC, who rejected its case.

Desai had evidently told the police she had received “repeated texts, emails and even visits” from Davies. He says he called at her house just once, emailed once, and never texted her. Though she is a convicted fraudster – a known liar– the police and the IPCC apparently accepted her word.

It is, says Barwell, “a very worrying attack on press freedom”.