Prime Ministers do not usually indulge in personal attacks on their predecessors, but David Cameron made an exception, with a gratuitous swipe at Gordon Brown.
Challenged by the Labour MP Phil Wilson to say how many jobs he thinks an MP ought to have, it being Labour’s policy to clamp down on outside earnings, the Prime Minister was momentarily lost for an answer, before hitting upon the smart ruse of heaping praise on the former Labour Home Secretaries, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
They have declared outside earnings of more than £164,000 and £89,000 respectively in the past year, and yet, Cameron declared, the Commons benefits from their continued presence as MPs. He then added the throwaway comment: “I am not sure that we benefit from my immediate predecessor.”
It is true that Gordon Brown is seldom seen in Parliament, and that he now spends most of his time raising large sums for a charity foundation he has set up with Sarah Brown. He speaks or tables questions only on matters directly affecting his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, because if he strayed outside its boundaries, his every word would be analysed for any hint of criticism of Ed Miliband.
But late on Tuesday evening, when most MPs had gone home, Mr Brown delivered an angry 15-minute speech about radiation pollution in Dalgety Bay.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the Ministry of Defence broke up hundreds of wartime fighter planes and other aircraft, and buried the incinerated parts around the bay, from whence the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has recently recovered more than 1,000 radioactive particles. Brown claims the Ministry of Defence has known for decades that they were responsible for polluting Dalgety Bay, but refuses to accept responsibility and clean up the site.
In reply, the Defence Minister, Andrew Murrison, remarked: “He has been, if I may say so, an assiduous MP in his attention to this matter… I well understand his passion for this subject given his long association with the area and the local community.”
Such flattery, and such a contrast from the dismissive remark that the Prime Minister made only hours later.
Fans led in wrong direction as 1D’s Niall has his Twitter hacked
Some of the 12 million or more starstruck youngsters who follow the Twitter musings of Niall Horan, of One Direction, have noticed strange happenings lately.
Just under two weeks ago, for example, the young heart-throb was apparently up at 8am, adding 20 lucky people to the list of those he follows. Three hours later, he informed his followers that he had just woken up, as if to imply that he had been following people in his sleep. On Tuesday, he greatly upset two loyal young fans by unfollowing them.
This and other oddities were meticulously catalogued by one savvy devotee who uses the tag @suedeharry, who sent a heartfelt plea via the social media to One Direction’s management, begging them to check whether a hacker was at work. For the girls who discovered they had been ‘unfollowed’ when they had done nothing wrong was “almost like ripping a piece of your heart out” he warned.
It would appear that an obsessed female fan was controlling Niall Horan’s timeline, reading his direct messages, and deciding on his behalf whom he would follow or unfollow. But all is now well. Today, the message got through and Horan announced on Twitter: “Ok my twitter is being hacked as we speak! Unfollowing people! DMin people all kinda stuff! Will get control again.” Later, he was able to report: “Ok I’m back! I hate hackers! Pain in the ass!”
So who could have been responsible? Somebody jealous of their vast wealth? Vince Cable?
Why angry Dodds was made to lie low
Something MPs are forbidden from doing in the Chamber is accuse another MP of lying, directly or by implication. It is a myth that Winston Churchill got away with it by accusing an opponent of “terminological inexactitude”. He did use that phrase in Parliament, but not as an accusation. Nigel Dodds, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, fell foul of this rule during an exchange with the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, over the banning of a Unionist parade. Dodds accused her of being “deliberately deceptive” and was ordered off the premises by the Speaker, John Bercow.
Good riddance to a councillor
Cornwall county council is finally rid of its most notorious councillor. In August 2011, Collin Brewer, 68, a long-serving independent from Wadebridge, in North Cornwall, was annoyed by the sight of a Disability Cornwall stand in the council offices in Truro. “Disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down,” he said.
After the resulting outcry, he resigned, but in May successfully stood for re-election. Then he gave an interview to the Disability News Service in which he said that when a farmer sees a misshapen lamb “they just get rid of it” by “smashing them against a wall”.
The council condemned his remarks, but said they did not have the power to remove an elected councillor. His second resignation solves that one.
A backhanded boost for climate
There has been some choice rubbish written about Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory, but I was intrigued to learn via Energy Live News that he has helped tackle global warming. The National Grid is reporting a 1,000-megawatt drop in electricity demand – equivalent to switching off 400,000 electric kettles – when about 17 million Britons were transfixed in front of their TVs on Sunday.
* This will be my last column for this summer, because a family wedding in Vancouver at the weekend beckons. You will see my name in The Independent's news pages during August, but The Diary, will go into recess until the politicians return from their summer break in September. My thanks for all comments and suggestions.