Andy McSmith's Diary: Heard the one about the arrested MP? You might not hear it again…

MPs have quietly changed the rules to stop them automatically being named if they are arrested

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Indy Politics

Should you have an automatic right to know if your MP has been arrested? The answer is not that obvious. The world knew soon enough when Jeremy Corbyn or someone like him was arrested at a demonstration, in front of witnesses, but if an MP was arrested over some private matter and never charged, the electorate might never get to know about it.

That changed because of the farce in which the shadow Home Office minister, Damian Green, was arrested and his office was raided in 2008 without the parliamentary authorities appearing to have a clue what was going on. The then Speaker, Michael Martin, told the police that he must in future be notified if an  MP was arrested, for whatever reason.

However, if the Speaker’s office receives an official notification from the police, the information has to be shared with Parliament. In 2011, a Tory MP was accused of sexual assault. In 2014, another Tory was accused of rape. Neither was ever charged, and they are both still MPs, having been re-elected last year, but the fact of their arrests was published on the Commons Order Paper and made national news.

At the close of business late on Wednesday evening, MPs quietly changed the rules to stop this happening again. Only one – Labour’s John Mann – objected. Charles Walker, the Tory chairman of the Commons Procedure Committee, denied that this was creating a special privilege for MPs, because if you or I were arrested but never charged, it would not normally become public knowledge. 

However, it is now possible that an MP who has been arrested on suspicion of a serious criminal offence, but not yet charged, could run for re-election without the voters being told.

Take it easy on the snooze

There is a Twitter feed called Eye Spy MP which does what its name suggests. One contributor snatched a photograph of the Labour MP Jon Ashworth fast asleep on the evening train to Nottingham. He fessed up, tweeting in reply: “Fair cop, should have remembered you snooze, you lose.”

Is Sanders happy as Larry?

Bernie Sanders is on a roll. Not only is he on every news bulletin in the US, but he can now rejoice in this thrilling news about a close family member, via a press release from the Green Party: “Bernie Sanders, who won a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary earlier this week, will be celebrating again after his brother Larry was unveiled today in the new Green Party cabinet.”

Yes, Larry Sanders – who ran for the Green Party in Oxford West and Abingdon last year, and came fifth with 4.4 per cent of the vote – has scaled the political heights to become the Green Party spokesman  on Health. 

His brother must be dizzy with pride.

Hoxha is beyond a joke

Jeremy Corbyn ran into a spot of bother in December for quoting the former Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha. He was being jokey – but some people thought that, given Hoxha’s blood-soaked record, he was not a suitable subject for humour. 

This month, I.B. Tauris is publishing a new biography of Hoxha, by an Albanian journalist, Blendi Fevziu. It includes an account of the last days of a former partisan, Teme Sejko, who was suspected of ties with the West. He was beaten until “his body was all bruised and split open, and bleeding everywhere, his face, his head, his ribs, his thigh”. Then his torturers tried putting a rope round his neck and tightening it, but they pulled too hard and killed him.

No more Hoxha jokes.

Whelan’s Highland victory

Charlie Whelan, the bruiser who was Gordon Brown’s spin doctor until he had to resign because he was conducting a semi-public feud with Tony Blair’s favourite minister, Peter Mandelson, has found a new outlet. 

The Scotsman reports that he has been elected to the community council of Dulnain Bridge, a village in the Highlands with a population of about 500. I hope he behaves himself.