Andy McSmith's Diary: A good day to bury unpalatable decisions


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Indy Politics

It was Take Out the Trash Day today, when the Government delivers so many announcements that unwelcome news is likely to be buried under the volume. There were no fewer than 42 written announcements from ministers.

Mark Harper, the minister for the disabled, had three, one of which concerned changes to the Access to Work scheme, which helps the disabled stay in paid employment. In the fifth paragraph came news that there is to be a cap on awards. From 2018, no one will be entitled to a grant above one-and-a-half times the average annual salary – £40,800.

“Why a sting in the tail?” Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights, asked. “Even now, with no cap, for every £1 spent on Access to Work, £1.48 comes back to the Exchequer in tax, national insurance or savings to the benefits bill. This short-sighted change will mean that employers may avoid recruiting the best people. It’s a waste of talent.”

A statement from the Crime Prevention Minister, Lynne Featherstone, on using live animals to test products opened with what seemed like a promise to ban the practice, before the reader came upon the detail that the ban will not apply to “ingredients” where testing “is required for regulatory purposes”.

But all animal tests on ingredients are “required for regulatory purposes”, the anti-vivisection campaign BUAV claims. “What will now change?” BUAV chief executive, Michelle Thew, asked. “This will allow industry to continue the cruel use of animals in tests to produce a new brand of washing-up liquid or window cleaner.”

Miliband kitchen ripens Vine

Today’s absurd Twitter sensation was the canard that Ed Miliband has two kitchens. The person most to blame was Sarah Vine, star writer for the Daily Mail, who filled a page of that paper with an attack on the “forlorn little kitchen” in which the “mirthless” Ed and Justine Miliband had posed for a photograph. It was indeed, by the standards of the middle class, an austere and unhomely kitchen.

Seeking to defend the Labour leader, Jenni Russell, who is godmother to one of the Miliband boys, tweeted “Ed Miliband kitchen lovely. Daily Mail pix: the functional kitchenette by sitting room.”

This set off a veritable hurricane of speculation that there are two kitchens in the Miliband house, which did not die down even when Jenni Russell had tweeted to say that he did not have two kitchens.

I am reliably informed that as you leave the kitchen pictured in the Daily Mail, there is a short passageway leading into a room where the Milibands sit to share their breakfast. So they have one small room in which to prepare a meal, and another, pleasanter room in which to eat it. Only one of the two is what anyone would call a kitchen. Does this matter, I ask you?

By the way, Sarah Vine’s article includes a passing comment that her own kitchen is “10 years old” and could do with updating. I think she means nine years. It was between December 2005 and April 2006 that her husband, Michael Gove, used his MP’s expenses to purchase a £454 dishwasher, a £639 range cooker, a £702 fridge freezer and a £19.99 Kenwood toaster. That would have brightened up their kitchen, at no cost to them.

Lib Dems ‘bullied’ out of seat

One disaster for the Liberal Democrats is followed by another. A day after losing their candidate in Brent Central, Ibrahim Taguri, who accepted a potentially illegal donation from an undercover journalist, they have had to suspend the local party in Chesterfield, a seat they held before 2010, because the former MP, Paul Holmes, is accused of bullying the current candidate.