Andy McSmith's Diary: Exterminating Travellers – not a laughing matter


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Indy Politics

The best that can be said of Alan Mellins, a Conservative councillor from Maidenhead, is that his behaviour was ignorant. Maidenhead includes a site where Travellers settled five years ago without planning permission, and on Monday a council panel was asked for any suggestion about how to speed up the process of evicting them. “Execute them,” Mellins suggested.

He has since told the Maidenhead Advertiser: “The remark was an ill-judged remark, which I did not intend to be taken seriously. It doesn’t reflect my views.”

Adolf Hitler took the same view of Travellers – though unlike the councillor, he did intend it to be taken seriously. It is estimated that the Nazis and their allies murdered 220,000 or more of the one million Roma who were living in eastern Europe at the start of the war.

Joseph Jones of the Gypsy Council said, killing travellers “is not something that should be taken as a joke” and has suggested that the councillor should “seriously consider” his position. Labour has said that David Cameron should have him expelled from the party.

PM’s leadership challenge

Part of today’s unenlightening exchange between David Cameron and Ed Miliband consisted of a bit of nah-ni-nah about who was the worse leader. “Simply not up to the job,” said Cameron of Miliband. Not in a position to give “a masterclass in leadership”, said Miliband of Cameron.

The Labour leader could have scored an extra point if he had known how the Conservative MEPs voted when asked to approve the new list of European commissioners, including Cameron’s nominee, Jonathan Hill. Cameron had told his MEPs to vote in favour.

The problem was that MEPs cannot pick and choose which commissioners to support: they have to vote for the entire team or none, and the new team is headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, who was appointed President of the Commission against Cameron’s wishes. In the event, the MEPs split: six followed Cameron’s instructions by voting in favour, nine abstained and three voted against.

An earl with a tale to tell

Well done the Liberal Democrats. Although their support in the country has fallen far below Ukip’s, they have triumphed in a by-election to choose a new member of the House of Lords, under that weird new rule that lays down that there has to be a by-election whenever there is a vacancy in one of the 92 places in the Lords reserved for hereditary peers.

The winner was the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. It was not a close contest: he collected 155 votes out of 283 cast, when the runner-up, Lord Napier and Ettrick, had 35. The earl at least had a good story to tell. In his election statement he identified himself as a former diplomat, but did not mention that he was the MI6 station officer in Moscow who spirited the defector Oleg Gordievsky across the border into Finland.

The unknown Fabricant

Michael Fabricant is a Tory MP it is sometimes difficult to take seriously, but today he talked sense about an anomaly hanging over from the 1980s, when Aids was an incurable killer. People in high-risk categories were banned from donating blood, including all gay men.

Three years ago, the health minister amended the rules to allow a gay man to donate if he has been celibate for a year. Today, in the Commons, Fabricant put this question:  “If a monogamous, healthy, sexually active gay man has been tested and has neither HIV/Aids nor hepatitis B, and is not having sex with anyone with HIV/Aids or hepatitis B, why should he be prevented from donating blood?” He is seeking a change in the law.