Andy McSmith's Diary: Earl Spencer takes on the divine right of kings


Click to follow
Indy Politics

Earl Spencer is the uncle of the prince who is in line to be king – and, therefore, a committed royalist, you might think. Wrong.

At the funeral of his sister, the late Princess Diana, he memorably described the mother of princes William and Harry as “someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic” – which was interpreted as a coded swipe at the Royal Family.

Further evidence comes from the publicity for a forthcoming debate staged by Intelligence Squared. It will ask whether it is better to be a Roundhead or a Cavalier. Charles Spencer is speaking for the Roundheads.

He believes that “the Roundheads’ defeat and the execution of Charles I marked the end of medieval superstitions such as the Divine Right of Kings [and] heralded the beginning of constitutional rule and the fundamental rights of man”. I wonder if his former brother-in-law agrees.

GCHQ vs giant haystacks

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was asked during her appearance before the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee why GCHQ collects such a vast amount of personal data. She replied: “We have to have a haystack to be able to find the needle we need.”

An interesting choice of words, because the previous day, Nick Clegg had told the same committee: “You can’t find a needle unless you have a haystack.”

It is only two weeks since one of Ms May’s advisers is alleged to have described the Deputy Prime Minister as a “w***er”. Now they are reading off the same briefing note.

Ukip’s common touch

Voters in Rochester and Strood are being given a leaflet containing what looks like a handwritten message from the Ukip candidate, Mark Reckless, explaining that he believed the “honourable thing” to do after switching parties was to resign and seek re-election.

But here is a curious thing. During the Clacton by-election, voters received what appeared to be a handwritten letter from Douglas Carswell, saying much the same thing – and you don’t need to be a graphologist to see it is the same handwriting. The only difference is in the signatures.

Minimum sentences

Lord Freud’s remarks about disabled workers and the minimum wage prompts the question of whether anyone has ever been prosecuted for paying less than the minimum wage.

The answer is almost never. HM Revenue & Customs says its main concern is to make sure underpaid employees get the money they are owed. Only the most “obstructive” employers are hauled before the criminal courts. Since 2006, there have been four prosecutions: none in the past three or four years.

Poor short-term planning

Writing in Waitrose Weekend, John Humphrys surfs the popular anti-politician mood: “My colleague Andrew Marr suggests that no one should be able to run for Parliament until they’ve reached the age of 40, which means they’d have to have held another job in the real world first,” he wrote.

“Great idea – except it doesn’t go far enough. Let’s restrict them to one term only. That means they’d be back in the real world very soon – and whatever decisions they took would affect them directly.”

So, after each general election a prime minister who has just arrived in Parliament would have to appoint a whole team of ministers who would have so little idea of what the job entails that they would have no real choice but to do what the civil servants tell them. Not a great idea.