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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: An ingenious solution to blue-on-blue attacks - ban them


It’s the blue-on-blue attacks that really upset David Cameron, when Tory MPs launch a raid against their own government.

A particularly annoying example followed this year’s Queen’s Speech, when 92 mostly Tory MPs tabled a motion that they “respectfully” regretted that the speech did not include a commitment to a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

It was so annoying that the Government is busy trying to rewrite the rules of the House of Commons to make sure it cannot happen again, and in doing so has set off another blue-on-blue conflict. The Leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley, and his Liberal Democrat deputy, Tom Brake, have proposed that in future years no more than three amendments to the Queen’s Speech will be allowed. The Leader of the Opposition gets two, leaving one for everyone else. In those circumstances, the Speaker is more likely to give the floor to one of the smaller parties than to rebels from the governing party.

A group of MPs headed by two independent-minded Tories, Charles Walker and Jacob Rees-Mogg, has slapped in a counter-motion that tells the Government to keep their hands off the Commons rule book.


Forum for the ill-informed

Commons committees have a mixed reputation. At their best, they are an unrivalled means of forcing the powerful to give a public account of themselves. At their worst, they are a forum for self-important MPs to ventilate ill-informed opinions.

The transport committee’s investigation into why so many cyclists are being killed on London’s roads was in the latter category, in the opinion of one eminent member of the public.

Chris Boardman, the former Olympic gold-medallist, has released a statement through British Cycling: “The MPs that sit on the Transport Select Committee should be embarrassed by their performance in an inquiry that was meant to be about why six people died riding bicycles on London’s roads in two weeks.

“In front of them sat experts from campaigning bodies, transport research and the police and yet the MPs demonstrated that they didn’t even know the most basic of facts. Evidence and statistics were bypassed in favour of opinions and anecdotes on side-line topics...” But credit where it due, well done the committee members who got there on the right day. On their website, the hearing was listed as being held on “Monday 4 December.”


Too extreme for Ukip

It has not been a brilliant few days for Christopher Monckton, the eccentric peer best known for his views on climate change, which he does not think is man-made.

He was Ukip leader in Scotland until the weekend, when Nigel Farage sacked him because of a dispute over the selection of candidates for the European elections. He has also caused havoc in the Crewe and Nantwich branch, where the local Ukip leader, Richard Lee, invited him to speak at their Christmas dinner. It is official Ukip policy to oppose gay marriage, but according to witnesses, Lord Monckton went further, expressing a view of homosexuality which so appalled one of his listeners, Jake Andreou, that he promptly resigned. “I honestly don’t want to be a member now, if it has got people like that in it,” Mr Andreou says.


Councillors’ toxic chutney

Commiserations to Leicester City Council’s health inspectors who went out for a meal in a popular Indian restaurant in the city centre, which has five-star health standard ratings, and contracted salmonella. Chutney made on the premises was the cause. It is now off the menu.


Digital art in the making

And congratulations to Laure Prouvost, the digital artist who unexpectedly won the 2013 Turner Prize. At the end of the evening, she returned to her hotel to find a fellow guest, who had come thirstily to the award ceremony, slumped unconscious on a table outside her room. She took a series of pictures of him, of course.