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.

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