Andy McSmith's Diary: Ed Miliband breaches the spin doctors’ rules - he does good on the quiet


Ed Miliband has breached a basic rule of politics, which is that if you do good, make sure people know. For some years he has spent part of each Christmas Day delivering lunches on behalf of a charity, and will do again next Wednesday.

Though his office will not deny that it is on the schedule, they will not give any details, because they do not want any cameras or journalists following him.

It is commendable, but you can imagine that people inside the Labour Party whose minds are exclusively focused on winning the next election must want to scream at him: “If there’s no votes in it: don’t bother. Stay indoors with the family.”

What will Simon say now? 

“I don’t have to say the Government is wonderful because I’m not in the Government,” the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes told The Huffington Post in September 2012.

Today, 62-year-old Mr Hughes was appointed a minister for Justice. So now he will have to say everything in government is wonderful.

No news is bad news

Two years have gone by since Boris Johnson, the former Brussels correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, told The Andrew Marr Show: “I’d be amazed if we were all sitting here next year and the euro had not undergone some sort of change. I think it highly likely that there will be a realignment. We all know who the likely candidates are.” Ouzo, he further predicted, would be “substantially cheaper” within 12 months.

That was on 18 December 2011. A year has passed, and another, the euro has not “undergone some sort of change” and the price of ouzo is much as was. London’s Mayor must have had a year of being “amazed.”

Iron Lady, steely memories

The screenwriter Abi Morgan, whose credits include The Iron Lady, about Margaret Thatcher’s dying days, and The Invisible Woman, about the actress Nelly Ternan, who had an illicit affair with Charles Dickens, was asked in an interview for a forthcoming edition of Total Film magazine whether it was “intimidating” writing about Dickens. She replied: “He’s dead. It really helps. Margaret Thatcher... not so much. That was intimidating.”

Full-dress rehearsal for war

The coming year will be replete with of events commemorating the centenary of the start of the Great War. Christmas 1913 was the last festive season of a settled, status-ridden social order that was to be destroyed in the killing fields of Flanders.

There is a taste of how things were in these excerpts from instructions published in The London Gazette of 19 December 1913, for the benefit of ladies who wished to be presented to the court during the following year:

“A lady attending a Court may present one lady, for whom she must be responsible, in addition to her daughter or daughter-in-law… Ladies may be accompanied to Court by their husbands if the latter have been presented, but gentlemen do not pass before The King and Queen… The dress regulations are: Ladies: Full Court Dress with feathers and trains. Trains not to exceed three yards in length from the shoulder. Gentlemen: Full Court Dress.” Those were the days.

Bercow’s law

It was thought to be a cardinal rule that no MP could accuse another of lying. In the Commons, the Labour MP John McDonnell, whose Hayes and Harlington seat abuts Heathrow, shouted “you’ve lied” at David Cameron so audibly that it is in the Hansard record.

Tory MPs expected the Speaker, John Bercow, to shoot him down and started barracking until Bercow ticked them off. “I know what I am doing,” he said. “I do not need any help. A reference was made to the treatment of constituents, not to observations that have been made in respect of MPs. I am clear on that and the procedure is extremely clear as well.”

So, we can call it Bercow’s law: no MP may accuse another MP of lying to MPs, but can accuse him or her of lying to voters – a lesser offence, to be sure.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'