Andy McSmith's Diary: Barking Bone’s Bill is a triumph of democracy

Our man in Westminster

Because MPs spent so long arguing over an EU referendum, we had only a very shortened version of what promised to be the best parliamentary entertainment of the season yesterday. After the EU debate, it was the turn of Peter Bone, the high eminence of the barking tendency on the Tory side, to introduce a Bill under which the last Monday in August would be known, by law, as Margaret Thatcher Day.

This is delightfully bonkers and everybody involved entered into the spirit of it by behaving like infants. Mr Bone’s speech opened with the word “now”. Why he said “now”, I cannot tell, because he was immediately interrupted by a Tory whip, Robert Syms, who  cried out: “Object!”

To what was Mr Syms objecting? Nobody knows. I don’t think he knew. Mr Bone curtly told him “You can’t object” – so he didn’t. I don’t think he even meant to. The word kind of popped out at the wrong moment.

Mr Bone was now able to begin a whole sentence but not, alas, to complete it, because the Labour MP Thomas Docherty interrupted to raise a point of order. It was to suggest that Mr Syms read the rule book to improve his grip on parliamentary procedure. Mr Bone soldiered on. “Baroness Thatcher was without doubt one of the greatest prime ministers in living memory,” he declared.

He was interrupted again, this time by the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, who complained that MPs were making too much noise and called on them to be quiet.

“Mrs Thatcher was a great stateswoman, a true patriot, and an inspiration to the masses,” Mr Bone declared, getting into his stride. “She not only did our country a great service but gave Britain back its pride and returned it to prosperity after some of the darkest economic days in recent decades. She gave us a legacy to be proud of. It is rare to find…”

What is rare to find? We know not, because there was another interruption. Two Labour MPs had points of order – but were they genuine points of order, or just time wasters, Mr Hoyle demanded to know. The two Labour MPs sat down.

“This was a politician with such great courage and conviction,” Mr Bone declaimed.

And that was it. The clock said 2.30pm. Time was up.

The Bill to rename the August Bank Holiday Margaret Thatcher Day has almost no chance of even being discussed in Parliament again, let alone becoming law.

You’d make a fabulous PM, darling

When Joanna Lumley took time off from playing Patsy Stone to campaign on behalf of the Gurkhas, some people remarked that she seemed to enjoy playing the politician. She has now confessed that before she had thought of being an actress – a profession for which, by the way, she never had any formal training, just a natural talent – she had a dream that she might be Prime Minister. It was an ambitious dream, because there had never been a woman Prime Minister when she was a girl, growing up in far flung parts of what was then the British Empire in the 1950s.

She is the latest celebrity to reply to the author Dominic Shelmerdine, who writes to the famous asking after their early dreams, for a follow up to his compilation, My Original Ambition. She wrote: “I thought I would like to be a bartender when I was six, and spent happy hours on the veranda in Malaya mixing cocktails of coloured water and sand. Then it struck me that a brain surgeon would be more exciting: soon after that I thought it would be good being Prime Minister.

“Landing up as an actress I now just pretend to be these people, and can change my status, career and age at the drop of a script. Hurrah!”

Unite in a mess over membership

Though Unite is described as a union, it is more a conglomeration of unions, some parts of which are chaotic. This makes enrolling its members into the Labour Party tricky. In the marginal Tory seat of Ilford North, Unite mailed everyone on its membership list inviting them to a meeting as a step towards selecting a Labour candidate sympathetic to its aims. The Tories knew what they were up to, because one of the people, who had never been a Unite member, was married to a leading local Conservative.

Lammy for Mayor of London in 2016?

Congratulations to David Lammy on being unanimously reselected to be the Labour candidate in his Tottenham seat next time around, though I wonder if he will serve another full term in the Commons. In 2012, he thought about having a go at running to be Mayor of London, but decided not to go against Ken Livingstone for the Labour nomination. I am not aware that he has said anything to suggest that he has lost interest in the job.

Keighley council gets in a Pickles

The 30-member Town Council of Keighley, in Yorkshire, has been ticked off by its most prominent son. Councillors came over shy when parishioners turned up at one of their meetings wanting to film it. They banned filming, and called the police. Reportedly, it took nine officers to remove 11 members of the public, all but one over 60. News reached Keighley-born Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. “Keighley Town Council seems to have lost the plot,” he tweeted. “A good council is open to public scrutiny.”

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