Andy McSmith's Diary: A quiet Commons for Carswell as Ukip arrives

As Carswell swore on the Bible to do his duty as an MP, Dennis Skinner shouted that no one would believe him

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Indy Politics

A haunting silence descended on the Commons yesterday as Douglas Carswell took his seat as Ukip’s first ever elected MP.

Moments earlier, the Labour benches had erupted in cheers when the winner of the Heywood and Middleton by-election, Liz McInnes, was formally introduced, but as the winner of the Clacton by-election walked slowly up the aisle towards the Speaker’s chair the only sound was of MPs quietly talking to one another.

As Carswell swore on the Bible to do his duty as an MP, Dennis Skinner tried to break the atmosphere by shouting out that no one would believe him.

Up in the spectator’s gallery, Nigel Farage sat solemnly. Afterwards, he and his new colleague repaired to one of Parliament’s tea rooms where – appropriately – they were seen tucking into fruitcake.

Heffer goes wild

Readers of the Daily Mail must have felt deprived last week. There was no Simon Heffer in their Saturday edition. The Heff’s Saturday slot is nothing if not lively. On the Saturday after the Scottish referendum, he contributed an exuberant piece declaring that Nigel Farage was “the true winner of this debacle” – so you would think that the election of the first ever Ukip MP would inspire him.

Actually, it did. The column exuded such wild enthusiasm for Ukip that it was spiked. Senior colleagues of the star columnist are said to consider him too much of a Ukip propagandist.

By way of compensation, readers of yesterday’s Mail were treated to a full page of the Heff’s thoughts on why cyclists should be made to wear number plates.

A round of friendly fire

Traditionally, the first debate of the academic year at the Oxford University debating union is a vote of confidence in the Government, with two politicians and a student taking up cudgels on either side. This year, it was to be Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, and Sir Alan Duncan on the government side, vs Hilary Benn and the venerable Baroness Williams. But there was a frightful last-minute hitch.

Somebody reminded Shirley Williams that her party, the Lib Dems, are actually in Government. The line-up is now three politicians versus Benn and two students.

The Diary’s unwitting scalp

Left Unity, the new left-wing party set up last November at the behest of the film director Ken Loach, is small and less than a year old, but is already in the throes of a leadership crisis in which I seem to have played an unwitting part. Bianca Todd, granddaughter of Ron Todd, former head of the TGWU union, has resigned from her position as a “Principal Speaker”, after what she calls “a systematic sustained attack” from party comrades.

There were two prongs to this. First, she was criticised for putting a statement on the Facebook page of Steve Hedley, a prominent figure in the RMT union, apparently inviting him to join Left Unity. This was controversial because Hedley’s ex-partner has accused him of domestic abuse, though he has never been charged.

Secondly, there was a Diary item I wrote last March, about a youth organisation of which Ms Todd is head of service, several of whose staff had to go to a tribunal to claim unpaid wages. It seemed that there was a mismatch between what she said and what she did.

One of Ms Todd’s defenders has called the item “sneery”, but her critics took it seriously enough to demand an explanation. She resigned. I suspect that the feud will carry on, because feuding is something people left of the Labour Party do a lot and with great gusto.