The London mayoral election turned nasty this week, when the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon crept out of the woodwork to accuse Labour’s Sadiq Khan of being “unfit” to be Mayor because, supposedly, “he speaks alongside extremists” and blamed the terrorist threat on British foreign policy.
The grounds on which these allegations are based are so thin that they are scarcely worth refuting. No matter. They were sufficiently sensational to distract public attention away from anything Mr Khan might have to say about London’s future.
It is an example of what is now known as the “dead cat” stratagem, pioneered by the Australian election guru Sir Lynton Crosby. The best-known example was during last year’s general election, when the same Michael Fallon launched a brutal attack on Ed Miliband as a man who “stabbed his own brother” and would “stab the UK”.
Just a few days ago, the Conservatives, anxious that Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign was not going well, called in Sir Lynton’s firm, Crosby Textor, to assist. No sooner was he involved than Fallon was reprising his role as chief dead-cat monger. The old firm is back together.
Too much plain-speaking
Peter Wilkinson, the civil servant whose job is to look after rail passengers, may yet be heading for trouble over disparaging comments about train drivers.
Louise Haigh, shadow civil service minister, has fired off a series of written questions to ministers about whether the Department for Transport’s £250,000-a-year head of rail passenger services had behaved in a manner that befitted a civil servant. She asked whether his comments, made at a meeting organised by Gavin Barwell, a senior whip, were an accurate version of Government policy. Rail minister Claire Perry replied: “The Department for Transport is committed to continuing to work constructively with the transport unions.”
Compare that with Mr Wilkinson’s claim that drivers are overpaid and strike-prone, and “we have got to break them”. He is also reported to have called them “muppets”. He has since apologised.
Ms Haigh also asked whether Mr Wilkinson had broken the civil service code. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matthew Hancock, replied: “An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.”
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/17 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
2/17 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
3/17 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
4/17 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
14/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
15/17 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/17 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
17/17 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
Protesting that a contract to make British medals has been awarded to a French firm, Labour MP Ian Austin told David Cameron: “Imagine opening your Distinguished Service Order or your CBE to find ‘Fabriqué en France’ on it.” You would not know from the recording, but Mr Austin’s father taught French. He used to complain that his son’s French accent was appalling.
The SDP dream never ended
The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and collapse of the Liberal Democrats has led to some talk about whether there should be a new party of the centre-left. Not much talk, it should be said, because embedded in the collective memory of the left is the Social Democratic Party, that bold venture launched by Labour “moderates” 35 years ago this month that, for a few heady months, seemed to be on course to win a general election.
An SDP split in 1988 gave rise to second party of the same name: its performance in the 1990 Bootle by-election – seventh, behind the Monster Raving Party – convinced David Owen the game was up, and that was pretty much the last we heard of that party’s name. But, I now learn to my surprise, a third incarnation was born and exists to this day, with two elected councillors in Birmingham and Port Talbot.Reuse content