Andy McSmith's Diary: Good news for The Guardian - help is on its way. In the form of Andrew Mitchell
Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip, has found a new outlet for his talents after a difference of opinion with a Downing Street police officer cost him his previous job.
In the updated Register of MPs' interests he declares that he is a director of The Foundation, a London management consultancy, which are paying him £3,000 a day to work six days a year, with £10,000 up front.
Prominent among The Foundation's clients is The Guardian, who will now be able to draw on the expertise of a politician whom a Guardian editorial last September accused of having “ineptly… damaged himself, his party and his government”.
Conference apologists spring into action
The spring conferences of the political parties used to be high-profile events drawing only slightly less attention than the annual conferences in the autumn – attention that frequently embarrassed party bosses. The Tories have cut theirs back to a one-day event, held today, in central London. Similarly, Labour will hold a one-day “People's Policy Forum” next Saturday, in Birmingham. Only the Liberal Democrats continue with an event that can be called a conference.
But The Liberator, a magazine for Liberal Democrat activists, warns: “Not for the first time, there is a move to abolish the spring conference.” It adds, tongue in cheek: “The motives are said to be financial… We are sure that the embarrassment caused to the leadership at recent spring conferences has nothing to do with it.”
Hang 'em, flog 'em – and maybe do some research
Priti Patel is an assiduous Tory MP who made a name for herself on BBC's Question Time by arguing the case for bringing back hanging. In her quest to find out just how soft the prison system is for murderers and the like, she has tabled a question calling on the Justice Department to reveal exactly how much is spent on state benefits for prisoners serving life sentences. For the record, prisoners are disqualified from getting benefits. So the answer is nil.
Pubs find an unlikely saviour: drink-drivers
The Campaign for Real Ale held a rally this week to protest against the accelerating number of pub closures in London, which is said to be losing them at a rate of two a week.
The problem is not, of course, confined to the capital, and is in some ways more serious in rural parts of the country. I see that a lady named Hilda Carson is so concerned about the disappearance of rural pubs in Hertfordshire that she has written to the Hitchin Comet demanding that something be done.
“To enable customers to visit, and assist the survival of these much-loved institutions, I would suggest that at certain quiet times, and only for the more experienced drivers, after 11pm at weekends for example, that rural roads and some arterial routes be exempted from the application of drink-driving regulations…” she wrote.
Would anyone fancy living along one of these roads where “more experienced drivers” can drive home as drunk as they like without fear of arrest?
Why in Slough it's best to be a Cameroon
After 44 years in the Conservative Party, Diana Coad claims to be the best-known Tory in the town of Slough, Berkshire. She has run for Parliament three times, but there will be no fourth attempt, after being called to the party's London headquarters and struck off the candidates' list. Her furious husband, Peter Dale-Gough, former leader of the Tory group on Slough council, tells me: “The party chose her to run three times but because it has become known that she is not a Cameroon, they've told her she can piss off.”
She was approached by Ukip who asked if she wanted to be an MEP, but she told them: “No, I'm a Conservative. I just can't stand David Cameron.”
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