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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Are Labour’s leaders its worst enemies?


Ed Miliband does not look like a potential prime minister to the public, the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke bluntly let on today. Mr Clarke, who has a book to promote, also thinks that it will be “very difficult” for Labour to win next year’s general election outright.

On Miliband, he told the BBC’s Daily Politics show: “A lot of this stuff about being a geek and weird and so on is complete nonsense, but he still has to convince people that he has the capacity to lead the country.”

He is not blaming Miliband for Labour’s plight, so much as Gordon Brown. “He wasn’t a successful Prime Minister or party leader,” Clarke reckoned. On Labour’s election prospects, he said: “I’m pessimistic. I think it will be very difficult for us to do that. But it could happen, it could still be done.” He is not alone. At least one very well-known Labour MP privately predicts that the Conservatives will get back with a 20-seat majority, while at least one equally well-known Conservative predicts an even heavier win – by Labour.

Sympathy for Murdoch

Is the BBC being let off too lightly over the sordid story of Jimmy Savile? The veteran Sky broadcaster Adam Boulton thinks so. He has contributed to Charles Clarke’s book, The Too Difficult Box – a series of essays about issues that are too hot for politicians to handle – by complaining that the BBC and its licence fee are treated as untouchable.

He contrasts how the public has reacted to the way the BBC failed to notice that one of its star performers was a serial sex offender – “No one in the BBC, past or present, has been held to account for this” – with the reaction to the hacking scandal.

“In that case,” Boulton writes, “police inquiries and prosecutions have been focused almost totally on those who worked for one particular set of businesses associated with a much vilified individual – Rupert Murdoch.” Boulton is himself, of course, a highly paid employee of the “much vilified” Rupert Murdoch. 

The price of honour

For some reason, the Sultan of Brunei was awarded an honorary doctorate of law some years ago by King’s College, London.

Last year, he announced a change in the penal code in his kingdom under which thieves could have limbs amputated, and adulterers and gays risk being stoned to death. John Gummer, now Lord Deben, is among those who ask how anyone believing in such practices could be a “doctor of law” at a British university.

“To be a recipient of an honorary law doctorate suggests that you support a rational legal system. Stoning women accused of adultery and gay people for being gay shows that the Sultan of Brunei clearly does not,” he told Pink News. The university, mysteriously, does not agree. The Sultan has a £12bn fortune, but surely that has nothing to do with it?

Muddle Earth?

Jack Dee is not, I gather, a Lib Dem supporter. “This morning, once again, my alarm call is Nick Clegg making an arse of himself on the Today programme,” he tweeted.

Last September he likened the Lib Dem conference to “a rolling audition for a budget remake of Lord of the Rings”. Clegg as Frodo, and Vince Cable as Samwise? Doesn’t work for me.