Andy McSmith's Diary: From Russia, with no love for Nick Clegg

What does Lenin have to do with the former Lib Dem leader's ban?

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Russia’s decision to ban Nick Clegg has set the Daily Mail speculating that the cause might be that, 97 years ago, a woman fired a shot at Lenin that was intended to kill him.

What has that got to do with Clegg? The tenuous link is that Clegg had a wild and fascinating great aunt named Moura Budberg, a Russian who had a torrid affair with a British agent, Robert Bruce Lockhart, in Moscow in 1918. The Mail infers that she might therefore have been part of a British-backed conspiracy to decapitate the Soviet government.

A major flaw in their theory is that Budberg was allowed to leave the USSR and go back several times to be with the writer Maxim Gorky, one of her many lovers. If there had been a flicker of suspicion that she was implicated in an attempt on Lenin’s life, she would have been shot. The Mail explains this away by claiming, on the basis of no evidence, that the head of the Soviet police, Genrikh Yagoda, was another of her squeezes, and so protected her.

The story was illustrated with what the Mail claimed was a photograph of Yagoda. It was not. It was a photograph of a Red Army Marshal, Kliment Voroshilov. Anyway, the record shows that Yagoda directed his lust at Gorky’s attractive young daughter-in-law rather than his lover.

If we want to guess why Clegg is banned from Russia, we might look to the statement he made a year ago, calling for Russia to be stripped of the right to host the 2018 World Cup. His great aunt has nothing to do with it.

From the mouth of Beebs

The BBC could be in a spot of trouble over one of the most memorable bits of footage from the election campaign. It was that moment when the shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, on a visit to a school in Derby, asked an angelic looking 10-year-old boy which party he would support if he had a vote. “Ukip,” the child replied, in order to “get all the foreigners out”. The exchange was broadcast by BBC1 East Midlands on 15 April. The child was recognisable, and there were some harsh comments posted online. Ofcom is investigating whether the BBC broke the broadcasting code by not taking due care of the child’s welfare.

Nice one, George

In Bradford, an Asian teenager who was caught in possession of heroin has escaped a prison sentence, in part – the judge explained – because “I have a very nice reference from George Galloway, who writes a very nice letter on your behalf.” I confess I didn’t realise Galloway could do “nice”.

Editing suites

A new era has begun over at The Guardian, as Katharine Viner takes over the editorial chair that Alan Rusbridger occupied for so many years. The first casualty of this regime change is the bright yellow sofas that were a feature of the conference room. Male executives liked sprawling on the sofas, but women were uncomfortable on them, particularly if they were wearing skirts. Consequently, editorial conferences tended to feature male executives sitting comfortably while everyone else stood  around the walls. The  sofas are to be replaced  by chairs – but this being The Guardian, they probably won’t be normal chairs. Bean bags and brightly coloured designer chairs, more likely.