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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: George Osborne eyes William Hague’s Foreign Secretary job in act of misplaced optimism


George Osborne intends to become Foreign Secretary next year, according to The Spectator’s normally plugged-in political editor, James Forsyth. The assumption is that William Hague will pull out of frontline politics in May 2015.

He will be 54, too young to retire, but he has been around a very long time, having become an MP at the age of 28, a cabinet minister at 34, and leader of the Tory party at 36. Osborne and David Cameron have formed the most successful political partnership in recent Conservative history, and Osborne reportedly will want to be where the action is. The main action, if there is a Conservative government, will be the referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU.

There is, of course, the formality of a general election to get through first. If leading figures such as Osborne are already mentally bagging their seats in a future Cabinet, they must think that election is as good as won. A lot of Tories thought the same in 2010.

Nadine’s novelistic flop

Nadine Dorries has been assiduous in promoting her new novel, The Four Streets. It is the first in a projected series of three for which her publishers, Head of Zeus, reportedly paid a six-figure advance. Now, three weeks after the book first appeared in the shops and on Amazon, the sales figures are in four digits. At the latest count, it has sold 1,154 copies. 

That’s no lady...

“You are an illustrious product of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, I cannot believe they taught you there to behave like that,” exclaimed the Speaker, John Bercow, as he rebuked the Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart for barracking too loudly during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Cheltenham Ladies’ College has many illustrious products. I suspect that the 77-year-old actress, Tsai Chin, who played Madame Lu in the 2006 version of Casino Royale, may have been a sixth-former there around the year 1953 – because she wrote a song, vividly describing the life these ladies led. I quote:

“I went to school in Cheltenham, at a fashionable ladies’ college, where I learnt what’s what and acquired a lot of exceedingly practical knowledge.

“Our reading, writing, arithmetic was positively mediocre, but we got pretty slick at the three-card trick and we played a pretty hand of poker…

“Our marks at French and algebra were a series of disasters, but at forging cheques and S-E-X, we were absolute past masters…”

If that is the sort of education Ms Mactaggart had, no wonder she gets out of hand during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Patriarchs of the House

As is often the way, the highlight of Prime Minister’s Questions was the performance by the Father of the House, the 83-year-old Sir Peter Tapsell, who instead of asking a question delivered a seminar on how to privatise a utility. Sir Peter’s political career is entering its final year, because he has said he will bow out at the general election. And we now know who the next Father of the House will be, because the Manchester Gorton constituency Labour Party has reselected its sitting MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman, undeterred by his age. He is four months younger than Sir Peter, and if he serves out another five-year term, he will still be an MP at the age of 89 years and 10 months.

Does any of it stand up?

David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, has accused Welsh GPs of handing out Viagra “willy nilly”, according to Wales Online. The site quotes a Welsh government source as saying this is a “cock-and-bull” story – meaning, if I may revert to journalists’ slang, that it doesn’t stand up.