We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk

UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Brighton Green Ben Duncan apologises for 'hired killers' tweet on Armed Forces Day


Ben Duncan, a Green councillor in Brighton, has apologised, two days after the event, for tweeting “Armed Forces Day has certainly brought the hired killers onto the streets of Brighton today. Hard to explain to my son!”

His apology was directed at those who have lost loved ones serving in forces, who might think his comment “insensitive”. It was not apologising for the blanket insult to everyone who has ever worn military uniform.

Councillor Duncan has form. Two years ago, he apologised “unreservedly” for a “light-hearted, ironic” tweet in which he declared that “I only smoke weed when I’m murdering, raping and looting". That was just after he had gone on record appearing to advocate that Brighton could boost its tourist trade by opening cannabis cafes.

And a year ago, he went public on the rift in the Green Party in its Brighton stronghold by accusing Jason Kitcat, the nation’s first Green council leader, of “bullying and lying to colleagues” and “betraying” the electorate. Councillor Kitcat and his wife have since announced that they are quitting Brighton and Hove council at the next election, for family reasons.

The Greens are supposed to be different from other political parties. In Brighton, they are indulging in vicious infighting, while he who has the biggest mouth claims the most attention. How is that different?

Bercow exhausts his wit

Compare and contrast – “May I just say to the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary that his role is to nod his head in the appropriate places, and to fetch and carry notes? No noise is required.” That was the Speaker, John Bercow, ticking off David Cameron’s PPS, Gavin Williamson, for barracking Ed Miliband during PMQs on 30 October last year.

Gavin Williamson, barracking Ed Miliband again, was ticked off again: “The role of the Prime Minister’s PPS is to fetch and carry notes and nod and shake his head in the right places.” The role of the Speaker, apparently, is to recycle old witticisms.

Chocolate slip-up averted

In one of Parliament’s cafés, I found myself next to the Leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley – tipped to be the UK’s next European Commissioner. “I hear Brussels is the place to buy good chocolate,” I said – the idea being that he would let slip whether he is bound for Brussels or not. He did a double take, coloured up, remarked, “I prefer Cadburys”, and hurried off.