Andy McSmith's Diary: Hard-hitting Margaret Hodge will be a tough act to follow

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has decided to quit

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Indy Politics

Margaret Hodge, the strident chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has decided to quit. That news will please the Treasury, who accused her of deterring foreign companies from investing in the UK by the ferocity with which she attacked multinationals who used accountancy tricks to minimise their tax liability.

She will not be missed by the management of Google, whose Northern Europe head of operations was called before the committee to be told by Hodge: “You are a company that says you do no evil. I think that you do evil. You use smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax.” Executives from Amazon, Starbucks, HSBC, and the BBC Trust were given similar treatment.

Her standing was damaged, however, by the revelation that she was a beneficiary from the winding up of a Liechtensein foundation had held shares in a private firm set up by her father. All the same, she certainly made her mark during five years in the chair. One of the candidates to replace her said yesterday: “After Margaret, anyone else is going to be a disappointment.”

Vaz vamooses

Another familiar figure is Keith Vaz, who has chaired the Home Affairs Committee since 2007. His time is up, because of a rule that says that no one can chair a select committee for longer than eight years “unless the House otherwise orders”. Try to imagine a television news bulletin with no Keith Vaz: that is the future before us.

A ‘valiant’ trashing

Louise Mensch, who was a Tory MP for a remarkably short time, still comments effusively on British politics despite having left the country. Yesterday, she was valiantly trashing the reputation of a 17-year-old named Abby Tomlinson, one of the starry-eyed teenagers who promoted the #milifandom hashtag on Twitter in honour of Ed Miliband. During one two-hour period yesterday Mensch directed no fewer than eight Twitter messages directly at this young target. The first began charmingly with the words “Seriously bog off…” Another told her “Your pathetic attempts to disclaim criticism by claiming to be ‘a child’ at seventeen – yes, seventeen – won’t wash.” A few hours earlier, she had responded to a Twitter users who suggested she was bullying the teenager by saying that she was merely “criticising” not “bullying”, adding: “This is why the left has no future in the UK.”

What appears to have set off this onslaught is that Abby Tomlinson has complained about The Sun harassing her relatives, and has acquired the pro bono services of a barrister. Mensch is a columnist for The Sun on Sunday.

Poll position

Only 17 per cent of the public trust opinion pollsters, whereas 18 per cent trust bankers, says a press release from the PR firm PLMR in my inbox. The research that arrived at these figures was conducted by ComRes. They are a polling company.

Treasury in profit

Greg Hands, the new Chief Secretary of the Treasury, has inherited a surplus from the outgoing chief secretary, Danny Alexander. He tweeted: “Good news for me as Danny Alexander left £6.35 on his Treasury canteen card. Before anybody criticises, remember what Liam Byrne left us...”

What Liam Byrne left was a jokey note to Philip Hammond, who he thought was going to replace him as Chief Secretary, saying that there was no money. Because the Tories unexpectedly went into coalition, the note was opened by a Lib Dem David Laws who went public. That sneaky act gave the Tories their favourite attack line, which they will keep on using relentlessly.

Meanwhile, in David Laws’s Yeovil constituency, the Tories unseated him. That’s gratitude.

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