Andy McSmith's Diary: A tale of two MPs – and how honest doubt trumped tub-thumping


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Indy Politics

If Boris Johnson wants a Commons seat not far from his London home, the ideal berth is now available. John Randall, the bird-loving MP for Uxbridge, owner of the finest beard on the Tory benches, has announced that he is quitting Parliament at the next election.

In 2003, Randall resigned from his position in the Tory whips’ office so that he could speak and vote against the Iraq war. In a self-deprecating address to the Commons, he floated the possibility that people were not being told the full truth about the implications of launching an invasion.

“I have lost my faith in what happens in war because in the past the truth has been blatantly abused by our propagandists,” he said. It was nowhere near as confident an example of parliamentary oratory as the speech Johnson delivered a few minutes earlier, in favour of war.

Randall even confessed he could be wrong. Johnson was sure he was right. One of the two still stands by what he said on that day, and it is not Boris Johnson.

Who has lowest turnout?

The complaints from the Tory ranks about strikes being called after ballots in which turnout was low has naturally invited ripostes about other elections that most voters chose to ignore.

As the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude was speaking in the Commons, the Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: “Francis Maude today complaining about strike ballot turnouts. In other news his local Police Commissioner was elected with support of  4.8 per cent.”

He was referring to the Tory Katy Bourne, who became Sussex’s first Police Commissioner in an election in which less than 16 per cent of the electorate voted, and less than a third of those who did cast their first-round votes for Katy Bourne.

Farage bonds over a fag

When Jean-Claude Juncker, President-designate of the European Commission, met Nigel Farage, they had something else in common apart from the obvious one that each is a pain in David Cameron’s neck. “We have been told you like a drink, you’re a smoker. We couldn’t care less,” Farage announced.

Given Farage’s bar-room habits, it would be a strange indeed if he did care.

Banished by the Greens

Ben Duncan, the Green councillor who tweeted on Armed Forces Day that Brighton’s streets were full of “hired killers”, is a Green councillor no more. He has been removed from the ruling group on Brighton council for the rest of his current term as a councillor.

Greatest pleasure? Kippers

Sir Tony Baldry, the rotund Tory MP for Banbury, chose the occasion of his 64th birthday to reflect on the greatest pleasure he had experienced in his life. It was, as a child, “taking the night sleeper steam train to Inverness and the Highlands, and waking up at Aviemore to have kippers in the restaurant car.”

That was before his party sold off the railways to private companies.

Jellyfish rebuked

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is not the most popular man in the Government, but he retains the good opinion of the backbench Tory MP and national treasure Jacob Rees-Mogg, who remarked, “I believe he is the only person remaining in government who actually still believes what he believed in opposition” – which is an elegant back-handed insult to every other serving minister.

Rees-Mogg went on: “I don’t see how anybody can rely on what politicians say, if in opposition they have backbone and in government they are jellyfish.” A government reshuffle is imminent. I do not think Jacob Rees-Mogg need wait by the phone for Downing Street to call.