The election that is currently occupying the minds of MPs more than any other is for the post of Deputy Speaker, to replace Nigel Evans, who stood aside while he faces criminal charges.
By convention, Evans’s replacement has to be a Conservative, because both the incumbent deputy speakers are Labour. Hence all the committed or possible candidates – Brian Binley, Simon Burns, Nadine Dorries and Eleanor Laing – are Tories.
Simon Burns, who until recently was a transport minister, is assumed to be Downing Street’s preferred choice, though how he can be expected to work in harmony with the Speaker, John Bercow, whom he has described as a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf” is a mystery. It is a symptom of how much the Tories loathe Bercow that Burns is a contender at all.
But though all the candidates may be Tories, the electorate consists of MPs of all parties, so it is by no means certain that the candidate of the Tory high command will win.
Nadine Dorries is making a virtue out of being the candidate David Cameron is least likely to support. She has sent every MP an email saying “I am obviously not the No 10 candidate, something which in the election of a Deputy Speaker should not exist.”
She has another odd sales pitch. She is a maverick, whose views jar on most MPs, though she has proved to be impartial in debates she has chaired in the secondary chamber in Westminster Hall; and if she were Deputy Speaker, she would not take part in any debate while she holds that office. As she put it in her round-robin email: “If you don’t agree with my position on abortion, this would be a good way to shut me up!” Now there is a thought.
Baker to rock Westminster to its core
There was much comment yesterday about the newly appointed Home Office minister, Norman Baker, and his oddball conspiracy theories about the deaths of Robin Cook and Dr David Kelly.
A fact in danger of being overlooked is that the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes is also, at the tender age of 56, a wannabe rock star. He is leader of The Reform Club, a four-piece band.
In March, they released their first album, which included the track “Piccadilly Circus”, and an accompanying video. Not having heard “Piccadilly Circus” myself, I am prepared to trust the judgement of the Daily Telegraph’s chief pop and rock critic, Neil McCormick – “the song and performance is banal, obvious and pedestrian”.
But to be Young was very heaven...
Among documents put online yesterday by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation there is note to the Prime Minister written in the summer of 1982 by her parliamentary secretary Ian Gow with suggestions for a possible reshuffle.
Gow wrote the word ‘out’ alongside the name of a junior environment minister, Sir George Young. In the event, there was no reshuffle in 1982, and even after yesterday’s, he remains Chief Whip.
Radio 4’s Kearney fooled by Twitter spoof
There was a red-faced moment for Martha Kearney, during Radio 4’s World At One coverage of yesterday’s reshuffle after she told listeners that the backbench Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, had cheekily tweeted “my phone is very much on”. Jacob Rees-Mogg has never been on Twitter in his life. She was looking at a spoof account.
No name for Ukip refusenik Pain
If anyone out there can think of a suitable name for a new political group, Cllr Chris Pain, former Ukip leader on Lincolnshire County Council may be interested. That was where Ukip scored its biggest gains in May’s local elections, winning 16 seats to become the authority’s official opposition. Then Mr Pain, who was its leader, was expelled from Ukip for reasons that were not made public. He and five others broke away to form a group called “Ukip Lincolnshire”, but they have been ordered by party headquarters to drop the name.