Andy McSmith's Diary: Grant Shapps misses his chance to shine on first outing

Shapps then had to leave the front bench in the Commons, where he had sat for 30 minutes without saying a word

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Indy Politics

Grant Shapps’s first Commons appearance in his new role as a minister for International Development was a terrible disappointment to those watching from the gallery.

Though we had been told this new challenge was in no way a come-down from his Cabinet position as Conservative Party chairman, it was as if his fellow ministers were treating him as the junior member of the International Development team.

He was allotted the task of answering question seven on the order paper, while Justine Greening and Desmond Swayne dealt with numbers one to six. That became apparent only because there was a moment, about 20 minutes into the half-hour session, when David Morris, who was due to ask question seven, thought he had been called by the Speaker and jumped to his feet, whereupon Shapps lifted the notes prepared for him by civil servants and made ready to move into action.

It was a misunderstanding. John Bercow had actually called David Burrowes, sitting next to Morris, to ask a supplementary to question six. Time ran out; question seven was never asked. Shapps then had to leave the front bench, where he had sat for 30 minutes without saying a word.

Was it an unfortunate mix-up? “Don’t rule out that Bercow did it on purpose,” a certain minister told me afterwards. “And don’t quote me on that.”

Javid does a double-take

Sajid Javid, the ambitious new Business Secretary, told the Commons a self-deprecating story as he made his first appearance opposite Chuka Umunna, his Labour shadow.

He claimed that, when first elected in 2010, he was flattered by the way people seemed to recognise him. It was only after an excited member of the public took a selfie with him that he discovered it was because they thought he was Chuka Umunna.

Mixed messages

Ivan Massow is picking up support in his drive to be Tory candidate in next year’s London mayoral election when Boris Johnson pulls out.

On his campaign website, he admits: “I resigned from the Conservative Party at the turn of the century, wanting to jolt the party out its 1950s mindset, and while I still stand by my decision, I’m older and wiser now.”

For the sake of complete accuracy, he could have added that he did not just leave the Tories, he very publicly joined Labour, only to depart after a few years.

Mosley’s formative years

Max Mosley, who fought shy of publicity until his unusual sex life filled the front page of the News of the World, has given an interview to GQ magazine about being the son of notorious parents.

His father, Sir Oswald, founded the British Union of Fascists. His mother, Diana, and her sister, Unity Mitford, were fans of Adolf Hitler. “They were groupies,” he told his interviewer, Alastair Campbell. His father also met Hitler twice but did not much like him; he was more a Mussolini fan.

He also euphemistically describes his father as “sexually active”, though when Max was born the press inaccurately speculated that he was Hitler’s child, by Unity Mitford. “It was Fleet Street at its worst,” he said.

He saw nothing unusual in visiting his parents in jail as a child because he was brought up by nannies and tutors, so did not know how odd his background was.

A magnificent blunder

An Environment Agency press release was headed “Magna Carter celebrations”. This inspired a string of suggestions on Twitter as to what “Magna Carter” might refer to.  Is it the title of a film in which Michael Caine throws Michael Gove off a multi-storey car park, for example?

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