Andy McSmith's Diary: A soapbox for the rich and obstinately opinionated


If you have money to throw away and a mind bunged up with prejudices you feel you must share, all you need do these days is contact the advertising department of The Times.

Last week, the newspaper carried a full-page paid advertisement from a Tory voter identified only as Martin, berating David Cameron and George Osborne. Yesterday, a third of a page was filled with a paid advertisement from an anonymous Ukip supporter, attacking the Times columnist Rachel Sylvester for comparing Ukip with “Neanderthal cavemen”. The advertiser is in favour of leaving the EU, and wants French and German immigration rules to apply in the UK. He demands “freedom”, and wants state school teachers barred from “teaching children about homosexuality” and gays barred from marrying, because it says in the Bible that homosexuality is “an abomination”. He accuses Sylvester of resenting Ukip because “you cannot rebut their policy”. She could, actually, “rebut their policy” very easily. What she cannot do is shift impenetrable prejudice.

Fighting words down Merton way

Ukip appears to be on the verge of a small breakthrough in Merton, in south London, where five Conservative councillor have left or been suspended from the party after an obscure but ferocious argument over who should be the next Mayor. They have not defected to Ukip, yet, but their ringleader, Suzanne Evans, describes Ukip as having “backbone” while accusing David Cameron of behaving “like a reed in the wind”.

Those who can’t, set tests for 11-year-olds

Michael Gove, the smartypants Education Secretary, has set a standard test for 11-year-olds which requires them, for instance, to fill in the missing words in these sentences: “If there is not [___]  rainfall this month there will be a drought” and “As he was the [___] of his tribe the decision itself was his.” This has prompted a letter to the minister from Rebecca Lee, an 11-year-old from Christchurch school in Bristol, asking what happened to the commas which – she says – each sentence should include. A departmental spokesthing insists that “the commas here are a matter of choice”.

Cameron, D? Absent again

David Cameron really does not like answering questions in the Commons. For a variety of reasons, there has been no Cameron in the Commons for seven of the last eight Wednesdays. The week after next is school half term, which MPs normally take off, but the Government has decided to bring Commons business to an end on Tuesday, three days before the kids break up. That gives Mr Cameron a get-out for next Wednesday and the one after that. If we’re lucky he will put in an appearance on 5 June. Hope MPs can remember what he looks like.

Taxed by the basics of revenue raising

The Office of Tax Simplification, established by George Osborne in July 2010, and which costs £469,810 a year to run, is finding its job is not simple.  and has embarked on a six-month project “looking at tax definitions” – which suggests that before the year is out, they may have worked what the word “tax” actually means. It is a start.