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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Chancellor shows standard class strain on the train


George Osborne has obviously absorbed the lesson from that embarrassing occasion in October 2012 when he was caught riding in a first class train carriage on a standard class ticket. Today he boarded the 8.30 train to Glasgow, at Euston station, and settled down in a standard class coach. My scout saw him looking wistfully out of the window like a man who wished he was in first class.

PM’s pigs caught up in mess

Animal lovers in David Cameron’s Witney constituency are snorting about the swinish treatment of two Oxford Sandy and Black piglets, named Florence and Nancy after the Prime Minister’s daughters.

He donated them to a local tourist attraction, Cogges Manor Farm, where they spend all day locked in a pig sty, because museum staff say they might damage artefacts in contravention of heritage laws if they were allowed out to rummage and roam.

In that case, say the protesters, Cogges Manor Farm should never have accepted responsibility for them, even if they were a gift from the Prime Minister.

The Witney Gazette reports that 34 people have signed a petition.

Vine should count on Gove

“(Jeremy) Clarkson is a good generation older than me,” wrote Sarah Vine, Daily Mail star columnist. A year ago, this same Sarah Vine complained “at 46, I felt invisible.”

Clarkson is getting on a bit, but he’s not so much that he is a “good generation” older than that. He was born in 1960.

Sarah Vine is married to Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for making sure children are taught basic arithmetic.

A questionable Defence?

With nothing much else happening in Parliament, MPs are getting excited about an election under way for the chairmanship of the Defence Select Committee. Though it’s an all-party committee, and MPs from all parties can vote, the chairman has to be a Conservative, a proviso which has restricted  the field to eight candidates so far.

Julian Lewis, a former seaman and near-fanatical advocate for renewing the UK’s nuclear arsenal, has gathered some heavyweight support, including the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the former Labour Cabinet minister Peter Hain. Bob Stewart, who once commanded UN forces in Bosnia, and was a soldier for 28 years, is another strong contender. Coming up on the rails there is Keith Simpson, a military historian of some distinction.

Speaking to the Press Galley lunch, the Defence Secretary Phil Hammond professed to be “scrupulously neutral” in this contest, but added: “I’m not sure the Speaker was.”

When John Bercow was running for the office of Speaker, one of his campaign organisers was Julian Lewis. During Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Bercow allowed Lewis to put a question about defence to David Cameron, so reminding all MPs of his long, obsessive interest in this field.

It was 50 years ago today…

It was good of the ageing Sir Paul McCartney to drop by his old home city of Liverpool this week to meet some music students, and I hope no one had the bad grace to remind him of a certain anniversary.

In the 1960s, it was rare for a foreign act to top the US billboard charts, but The Beatles hogged the top spot for almost three months until 62-year-old Louis Armstrong unexpectedly knocked them off their perch with his rendering of ‘Hello Dolly.’ That was 50 years ago, on 9 May 1964.