Andy McSmith's Diary: From plebgate to PR adviser, it’s all in a £3,000 day’s work


Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip, has found a lucrative new way to fill his time now that he is no longer burdened with the responsibilities of government.

The latest edition of the Commons Register of Members' Interest reveals that he has been paid an advance of £10,000 for three days' work for a firm called Montrose Associates, who have hired him as a £3,000 a day 'senior adviser'. Montrose's expertise is in advising corporations how to avoid damaging publicity. Their website offers "a 360 degree external assessment to highlight unsuspected liabilities and vulnerabilities which Chairmen and Chief Executives prefer to hear about from a sympathetic ally than through a hostile press or a ruthless competitor…"

Mr Mitchell resigned from the government amid a media storm over an exchange with a police officer at the Downing Street gate. He has consistently denied uttering the word 'pleb'.


Smith Benson, a 72 year old Tory who was briefly in the national news three years ago, has been elected Mayor of Colne, Lincolnshire. He was in the news in because he was suspended, ordered to take equalities training and to make a written apology after he had told a public meeting, in 2009:  "The problem with Colne is that there are too many takeaways. And too many Pakis, that's why people don't come to Colne." Perhaps Colne's real problem is too many bigots.


Graham Stringer, a Manchester MP, has laid into the local NHS management for producing a document on the future of the city's hospitals which he has denounced as "tripe dissolved in twaddle." It is, he told the Manchester Evening News, "the most incomprehensible, opaque and jargon-ridden document I have read in the last 30 years."

Whether the document 'The Strategic Case' is any worse than dozens of others produced in the alien language of officialdom is debatable, but its author was obviously not too concerned about whether the average reader was going to be follow the argument. It promises a "benefits-driven approach to developing options for change, with financial hurdle criteria…" for which, it says further down, "a collaborative workforce and service approach is required, underpinned by a single governance structure." It also offers that old cliché that "sitting back and doing nothing is not an option" when, as any pedant knows, it is always an option: a bad one, but an option nonetheless.

It is a pity the report is not more succinctly written, because beneath the verbiage its message is stark - that the NHS in that part of the country is heading towards a mega financial crisis, which could see whole hospitals failing, unless local officials act quickly.


The day Margaret Thatcher died, 8 April, was also the 117th anniversary of the birth of the acclaimed lyricist, Yip Harburg, from New York.  His biggest hit was 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' which he co-wrote for the 1939 Hollywood film, Wizard of Oz. The BBC should do a commemorative documentary.


There are many reasons why the European Parliament should give up its expensive and time wasting practice of meeting sometimes in Brussels and sometimes in Strasbourg, which they do because abandoning Strasbourg would upset the French. Chris Davies, MEP for North West England, has discovered yet another reason.

He went to a doctor to complain of insect bites. She told him: "The good news is that they are entirely harmless and non-contagious and will go away. The bad news is that they are bed bug bites.

She went on: "Strasbourg is notorious for bed bugs. We get eight cases a week here. If it's any consolation they are bed-specific. Like everyone else in the Parliament you will have booked the same hotel 12 months in advance but so long as you don't get the same room you may be ok."