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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: A Christmas-card character mash-up from Parliament


Most Christmas cards from MPs are worthy, if dull, but one or two try to break away and do something notable, usually landing their senders in trouble in the process.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs committee, has aimed to amuse. His card features a mock-up picture of members of his committee in the guise of characters from the Harry Potter books, with Vaz himself in the centre, looking like Professor Dumbledore.

Behind him, overhead, there is a character from a different series of books. She is the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy’s antagonist in The Wizard of Oz, who bears the familiar features of the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

She, I am sure, has more sense than to rise to the bait. Others will be outraged on her behalf.


It is 50 years ago this month since the 21-year-old Christine Keeler was convicted and imprisoned for perjury. She pleaded guilty, unlike Stephen Ward, her supposed pimp, who was hounded to death in a gross miscarriage of  justice.

Behind both cases lay what appears to have been an orchestrated campaign to protect rich and famous men who wanted to avoid the ignominious fate of the disgraced Defence Minister, John  Profumo.

They all spoke freely to Lord Denning, who reported on the scandal, and what they told him is locked away still in an archive. George Galloway, the Respect MP, is the latest of many to ask if these documents could be made public. The answer, from the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, repeated the standard mantra: “Lord Denning assured each witness that the information given to him would be treated in strict confidence and would be used only for the purposes of his inquiry report.”

So many promises get broken, but that one, made to people nearly all of whom are dead, is unbreakable.

A surreal sting operation

During The Sunday Times sting operation that has led to the public disgrace of two peers, Lord Laird and Lord Mackenzie, the undercover team also approached the former Labour MP Martin O’Neill.

He said nothing that was out of order, and has not been found to have broken the code of conduct, though there was a moment when the conversation became a little surreal. “When you approached me, I started googling, because colleagues of mine were set up,” Lord O’Neill told the reporters, who were posing as lobbyists. “Really?” one of them asked. “Who by?”

“By The Sunday Times,” said Lord O’Neill. “By The Sunday Times?” asked the mock-astonished reporter from The Sunday Times.

Lord O’Neill went on to explain how The Sunday Times journalists – one of whom was, unbeknown to him, sitting there before his very eyes – had posed as lobbyists as a way of sniffing out peers who prepared to be bought.

 “Is that legal, in this country, to pose as somebody you’re not?” The Sunday Times hackette asked. I have no doubt that she looked the very picture of innocence. Certainly Lord O’Neill  suspected nothing.

PM to make a difference?

Downing Street released a press statement this week on investment in Hull, including this uplifting message – “Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘My message to Humberside is clear – as our economy turns a corner I want to see our great northern towns and cities right at the heart of the recovery. This new City Deal for Hull and Humber will mean a huge boost for local jobs…’”

On the same day, they put out a release on investment in the Tees Valley, which said this – “Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘My message to the North-east is clear – as our economy turns a corner I want to see our great Northern towns and cities right at the heart of the recovery. This new City Deal for the Tees Valley will mean a huge boost for local jobs…’”[