Andy McSmith's Diary: As Paris panics, MPs have a bad hair day


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While the world’s eyes were focused on the horror in Paris on Wednesday evening, MPs were engaged in a widely unreported debate on whether it is the Government’s job to protect you from a bad hair-do.

The Labour MP Nia Griffiths proposed that barbers and hairdressers should be compelled by law to register with the British Hair Council, as a way of protecting women in particular from having their hair splattered with dangerous chemicals by fly-by-night hairdressers.

Registering with the Council is currently voluntary: only 6,000 out of about 250,000 people in the hair-cutting and dressing business have done so. The Council’s chief executive is named Sally Styles. (I’m not making that up.)

Mark Harper, the Department for Work and Pensions minister whose responsibilities seemingly include formulation of government policy on hair-dos, said that legislation would be unnecessary and expensive, because the Health and Safety Executive is there to watch your back.

“In my nine years as an MP, I do not think I have ever had a single letter complaining about appalling treatment by a hairdresser,” he said.

Actually, only three weeks ago, a judge finally dismissed the assault charges against Anthony Orplinger, who was so enraged by his bad haircut that he stormed back to the barber’s shop, with a BB gun. He was offered a refund. But that was in Illinois.

Cable sidelined for Danny

When Nick Clegg announced this week which Liberal Democrat will speak on which aspects of policy in the coming general election, most of the coverage focused on the belittling of Vince Cable.

In 2010, Cable was at Clegg’s side as Treasury spokesman. Now that role is to be filled by Danny Alexander, while Cable has slipped to fifth place in the pecking order, as spokesman on business and skills. In the Commons today, taunted about his demotion by the right-wing Tory MP Philip Davies, Cable asserted: “I actually remain as our economics spokesman, but that is a minor internal matter.”

When he said “our economics spokesman”, it sounded as if he were claiming to be the only one, which is not so. He could argue that he is one of two economic spokesmen, but he is not the main one: he is outranked by Danny Alexander, who is 29 years his junior. Something tells me he’s not happy about that.

Crude bet with ‘The Sun’

Alex Salmond denies that he has lost a bet on whether the price of oil would drop below $50 (£33) a barrel on any day in 2015. The bet was made over lunch with the associate editor of The Sun, Trevor Kavanagh.

Since the price of a barrel of Brent crude dipped to $49.66 during Tuesday, you would think that Kavanagh is owed a greenback. But Salmond is insisting that his bet is not lost yet because by the close of trade, the price of Brent crude was back up to $51.10.

Kavanagh says there was no mention of the closing price in the original bet, but he has offered to go double or quits on an even lower price of $40 a barrel.

Secret election list revealed

Two years ago this week, the Government published a Midterm Report on its progress on every policy front. I was puzzled at the time by a commitment to “support 13 countries to hold free and fair elections”, because no one seemed to know which 13 countries they were.

Now, with time almost up, the International Development department say they have got a list, and have fulfilled the promise. The 13 countries were Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Pakistan, Yemen, Uganda and Malawi.