Andy McSmith's Diary: Happy birthday, Lord Tebbit: you’re now free to marry another man


The first gay couples will be able to marry on 29 March 2014, which is also the day that the former Conservative Party chairman, Norman Tebbit, will turn 83.

Lord Tebbit was one of the most ferocious opponents of gay marriage. Who could forget his speech to the House of Lords on 3 June: “The rights of a homosexual man are identical to mine. We are each free to marry a woman. Neither he nor I may marry another man. If it were to be held that the wish of a homosexual man to marry another man being thwarted by law was proof of discrimination, then the law forbidding polygamy would equally be proof of discrimination.

“Then there is the matter of the law of succession. There is, I believe, no bar to a lesbian succeeding to the Throne. It may happen. It probably will, at some stage. What, then, if she marries and her partner bears a child by an anonymous sperm donor? Is that child the heir to the Throne? If the Queen herself subsequently bore a child by an anonymous donor, which child then, if either, would inherit the Throne?” 

Or, as he told The Big Issue magazine: “We’ve got to make these same-sex marriages available to all. It would lift my worries about inheritance tax because maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other? I quite fancy my brother!”

Happy birthday, Lord Tebbit.

Mandela and we

The long, respectful Commons tribute to Nelson Mandela had some slightly odd “Mandela and me” moments.

“Although I never shook hands with Nelson Mandela, he walked just past me on 11 July 1996,” said David Hanson.

“The one connection I have with him is that we shared the same birthday – 18 July – though I was born a lot later than he was,” said Chris Ruane.

Geraint Davies went on a similar theme: “Mandela was born on 18 July 1918, which happened to be six days before the birth of my father, whose own father died when he was 12, as did Mandela’s. John F Kennedy was born the preceding year, and in 1960, when he stood for the presidency, that was the year in which I was born… At the age of 18, I was at that famous concert, singing along to ‘Free Nelson Mandela’…”

If he was born in 1960 but was only 18 at the time of the Free Nelson Mandela concert in July 1988, he must have taken his time growing up.

Do you know who I am?

David Miliband moved to New York to be free of the constant glare of publicity, and has made such a good job of it, according to The New York Times, that even the other parents at his children’s school do not know that he was once a prime minister in waiting. “I would like to dispel the rumour,” the former Secretary of State  Madeline Albright is reported to have said, “that David himself has sought refuge in America from  that most terrible of democratic tyrannies, the British tabloids.”

Ayling memory

Victoria Ayling, a Ukip councillor from Lincolnshire, claims that her comment, “I just want to say send the lot back”, was taken out of context and that she has been stitched up by The Mail on Sunday and by her ex-husband, whom she described as a “man scorned”. Prior to that scorning, husband and wife were visited in June by a reporter from Der Spiegel.

“Ayling’s … family had servants,” the correspondent wrote. “She grew up in a country in which hierarchies that had developed throughout the centuries were still intact, and where life could be very comfortable for those at the top. But eventually the working class began to talk back, becoming rebellious. Ayling believes that this roughly coincided with Great Britain’s accession to the EU … ‘He [David Cameron] has to declare a state of emergency and close the borders,’ she says.”

It leaves you wondering whether that remark she has now disowned was that much different from what she really thinks.

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