Andy McSmith's Diary: Conservative candidate’s racial sensitivity falls flat as a pancake

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“One thing I have become very sensitive about is this accusation that Conservatives are somehow racist,” Edward de Mesquita, who is standing as a Conservative candidate in West Hampstead, in London, told the Camden New Journal. “Conservatives are not racist. So many of the Conservatives have foreign wives, after all.

“How could I be racist? I have a Chinese girlfriend. Most of the girlfriends I’ve had have been very international. I tend to go for non-white women. So, when I go out door-knocking, and people tell me the Conservatives are racist, I could say: ‘No, now come on. I have a Chinese girlfriend.’”

Mr de Mesquita runs a crêpe stall in Hampstead High Street. The police had to mediate in a feud that blew up between him and the management of the King William IV pub over a fridge, which gave him an opening to show the true depth of his sensitivity about racism and inter-communal conflict.

“I compared me trying to talk to the pub to a Jew trying to talk to Himmler. Police told me that was a wrong choice of analogy,” he admitted. “I think that was the wrong thing to say, because it is actually far more like the situation with Israel and Palestine, or with Syria and the Sunnis, or perhaps even the Tamils and the Sri Lankan government.”

This Tory talks crêpe.

Minister for Portsmouth

Michael Fallon, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has added the title of Minister for Portsmouth to his various responsibilities. Portsmouth needs a minister because 900 jobs have been lost through the closure of the BAE Systems shipyard. The city has two MPs, but both have major distractions to deal with.

Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, was the subject of unproven accusations contained in a barrister’s report published just before Christmas that he had made “unwelcome sexual approaches” to a woman with mental health problems. And Penny Mordaunt, the Tory MP for Portsmouth North, is preparing to hurtle off the diving board in this weekend’s edition of the ITV programme Splash!

What is not yet properly established is which minister Portsmouth is getting, because Vince Cable, Fallon’s boss at the Business Department, says: “I’m the real minister for Portsmouth. I go there. Michael Fallon does as well.”

Library watch

One small but worthwhile innovation came into effect today when the Department for Culture, Media and Sport presented a report to Parliament on public libraries. From here on in, there should be another report every year. Strictly, this is not government businesses, because libraries are run by councils, but every time central government squeezes local government finances, libraries disappear.

“There remain 3,184 library service points open 10-plus hours a week in England,” says the report. In 1970, according to a study by English Heritage, England, Scotland and Wales had 2,395 full-time libraries, 8,262 part-time “service points” and 540 mobile libraries. At the current rate of attrition, there will be no libraries anywhere in 25 years. Power to the report.