Andy McSmith's Diary: Ghost of Robert Maxwell haunts the Chilcot report

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It seems a lifetime ago since Sir John Chilcot's stopped taking evidence for his inquiry into the origin of the Iraq War and went away to write his report. The public part of the inquiry began on 24 November 2009 and ended on 2 February 2011. Two years, two months and three weeks have since slipped by, with no firm indication yet of when we might see Sir John's conclusions. This is taking so long that even the House of Lords, a place in which time normally stands still, is showing signs of impatience.

Lord Hill, the leader of the Lords, sought to reassure their lordships yesterday by telling them that the report may actually be written by mid-summer. However, that does not mean we get to see it then, because after the writing comes a process called 'Maxwellisation.' It takes its name from that old rogue, Robert Maxwell, who fell off his yacht 22 years ago after stealing £500 million from pension funds he controlled. Back in 1969, inspectors produced a report declaring him unfit to run a publicly quoted company. He successfully argued in court that  having this surprise sprung on him was unfair. Since then it has been required that anyone criticised in the findings of an official inquiry sees the relevant passages before publication and has a chance to argue privately that the findings are unfair. So, don't expect the Chilcot report to appear this year.


John Cherry, a councillor from Stedham, near Chichester, has ended his political career in spectacular style with his extraordinary comments to the Mail on Sunday, about how children brought up in Stockwell, in south London - a "coloured area" according Councillor Cherry - would erupt like a "sexual volcano" if introduced by their school to the wooded countryside of West Sussex. He was a Conservative councillor when he uttered these sentiments, but not any more. His biography on the Chichester District Council website reveals that in addition to being a very active and committed Christian, "he is interested in reading, music, skiing, gardening, flying, travel and many other areas" - so plenty for him to do when he is an ex-councillor.


Former Downing Street Damian McBride has taken to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Luis Suarez affair: "This Suarez outrage is nonsense. Biting someone is just simple code for: 'I'm mental; don't f*** with me' - totally rational & reasonable." Later, he added: "Biting is the new spitting. An unpleasant but ultimately harmless offence that's treated like murder, while horror tackles remain ignored."

If that is the sort of advice he used to give Gordon Brown, it could explain a thing or two.


It was a lucky night for the owners and staff of the Pritiraj Restaurant in Seaburn, on Wearside, when the Texan chairman of Sunderland FC, Ellis Short, waltzed in for a curry after his team's1-0 victory over Everton. A witness went on Twitter to say that he had left a £1,800 tip.


The South Shields by-election briefly threatened to be fun, when the comedian Simon Brodkin submitted nomination papers in the name of his alter ego, Lee Nelson.  He had to pull out when warned that to run for office, even as a joke, risked breaching the BBC impartiality rule, at a time when Lee Nelson's Well Funny People is running on BBC3. His departure leaves relative unknowns in the field.

Political hacks who were thinking that they might make something out of David Miliband's absence have had their guns spiked, because he turned up over the weekend to give a show of support for the Labour candidate, Emma Lewell-Buck, so no story there. The only other point of interest is how well UKIP will do. On recent form, they are the Labour's only credible threat. The election is 2 May.