Andy McSmith's Diary: A tale of two Tories and their very different attitudes


Click to follow

Michael Farmer, one of the world’s best known and wealthiest metals traders, made his debut yesterday as a Tory peer, speaking on a topic that is not necessarily the one on which anyone would expect a mega-rich Tory donor to have opinions worth hearing.

He spoke about poverty, neglect, shame and social exclusion. He mentioned his parents, who were alcoholics: he was four years old when drink killed his father; his mother’s addiction drove the family to bankruptcy; his sister has struggled with alcoholism and depression.

He moved on to the plight of women driven by troubled childhoods into prostitution – or “survival sex”, as he called it – who can barely see the point of staying alive, and think the abuse and violence directed at them is their own fault.

How very different from the sneering remarks the Tory MP Crispin Blunt, the privately educated son of a Major-General, directed earlier in the week at the Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart, the daughter of a wealthy Tory, when she tried to amend the law to direct it at men who buy sex rather than women who sell it. He scoffed: “It takes the scion of a couple of baronetcies with the education of Cheltenham Ladies’ College to produce such a moralistic sense that can define sex work as exploitation.”

A smashing portrait

Chris Huhne, the former Lib Dem Cabinet minister who liked the fast lane, has been immortalised by the artist Grayson Perry. The description of the work that Perry has given to his local paper, the Ham and High, is almost as colourful as the ceramic vases for which he is famous. The Huhne vase, made from a pot which Grayson smashed and put back together, is ringed by a couple of dozen of images of the man himself, above and below rings of penises.

“I chose willies because that’s what got him into trouble, putting this where he shouldn’t have been, and I smashed it and mended it with gold to honour our vulnerability, that’s what makes us attractive. Being vulnerable, we show ourselves to be affected by a person or situation,” Grayson explained.

He added: “The white, middle-class, middle-aged, heterosexual man – I call it default man – is the zero longitude of identities against which all others are measured. He hides in plain sight and is therefore quite a challenge to unpick. They all say, ‘I got here through my own efforts not because I am affiliated to an elite tribe’ and talk as if it’s an aberration when things go wrong. My use of repeated patterns on the vase was to show you are one of many.”

Managing the EU exit

It is being said that Ukip should recruit Manchester City’s manager, Manuel Pellegrini – because no one knows better than Manuel how to get out of Europe.

A sniff of hacker culture

Graham Johnson, a former Sunday Mirror hack, is the first journalist ever to walk into a police station and own up to phone hacking before they were on to him. He is awaiting sentence.

He is also the author of a lively memoir, Hack, Sex, Drugs and Scandal from Inside the Tabloid Jungle, in which he minces no words in describing how he used to go about his work. “The only shorthand I possessed was the contemptuous nicknames I had for the subjects of my stories,” he wrote. “Members of the public were known as tools, bell-ends and ball-bags. It was a simple device to dehumanise my prey… If a story had male and female subjects – for instance a couple involved in a ‘shagging’ story – I referred to the man as Jimmy Pisspot and the woman as Jenny Pisspot. These were the tools of my trade. However, what I did possess was Factor X. A mythical quality possessed by an elite corps of hard news journalists. The ability to sniff out a story within seconds.”