Andy McSmith's Diary: Dry eyes for Lord Heseltine?


The news that Margaret Thatcher’s old nemesis, Michael Heseltine, will be at her funeral is an excuse to replay the story that the Tory MP Conor Burns told the Commons a couple of years ago.

Lord Heseltine was awarded a peerage in 2001, but did not make his maiden speech in the Lords until 11 years had gone by. When MPs were debating the future of the Lords in 2011, Conor Burns had this to say about the former Deputy Prime Minister whom the hard core Thatcherites will always regard as a traitor: “I remember telling Lady Thatcher a couple of years ago that he had not made his maiden speech, having been in the Lords for nine years at the time. Her reply was, 'Well, look on the bright side, at least we haven’t had to listen to it'.” Lord Heseltine’s eyes, I think, will be dry on Wednesday.

A question of taste?

So the BBC has caved in and banned ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ to placate the right wing press and others who cannot see the joke, handing a small victory for censorship to those who have been screaming loudest against the proposals in the Leveson Report. There have, of course, been other examples of songs the BBC felt the need to ban, all ridiculous. My favourite example has always been the 1930s ban on a recording by Frank Crumit of the old Irish song about a man who falls down drunk in the gutter where he is joined by a stray pig “till a lady passing by was heard to say: ‘You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses’ – and the pig got up and slowly walked away.” You see why Lord Reith thought this was unsuitable for the ears of the public, because heavy drinking was and remains a serious social issue. Making light of the death of Margaret Thatcher is tasteless, but harmless.

A losing trend

“Can someone please follow me? I don't like a day which has 666 in it,” the self-publicising MP Nadine Dorries tweeted on Thursday, when her follower count was stuck at 23,666. By the next day, it was 23,652. Problem solved.

Full support for Annie Akinin

MPs can be notorious for treating their staff badly, and for panicking at any hint that a scandal might touch their reputations, so respect to John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon, for keeping his cool after his secretary’s husband, Vladimir Akinin, pleaded guilty to defrauding the welfare state of £38,000. Mr Baron has told the Basildon Echo: “Annie Akinin has assured me she was not aware of her husband’s fraud, and indeed they are getting divorced. Annie knows she has my full support.”

Could South Shields by-election see another female MP?

South Shields constituency has had a Labour MP consistently since 1935, but there has not been a woman MP in that part of south Tyneside since Ellen Wilkinson died in 1947. One or other of those facts will cease to be true after 2 May, when the by-election triggered by David Miliband’s decision to quit these shores will be held. The Labour candidate is Emma Lewell-Buck, a leading South Tyneside councillor, responsible for adult social care, with sensibly strict views about tenants who disrupt their neighbours’ lives, and private landlords who leave empty properties to rot. The Tories are also fielding a woman, Karen Allen. But recent form suggest that in the highly unlikely event that Labour loses South Shields, the candidate to achieve this upset would be  UKIP’s Richard Elvin.

Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice