Andy McSmith's Diary: How Tory right wing makes Britain an unlikely bedfellow of Putin’s party


David Cameron heads off to Russia on Thursday for the G20 summit of world leaders, promising that he is not going to shy away from tackling Vladimir Putin, pictured, about a couple of very serious differences between Russia’s regime and ours.

While Syria is the bigger and more urgent, the Foreign Office has said that the Prime Minister will also raise the question of the law that the Russian parliament passed in June, banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations”.

What with that and the suspicious deaths of the Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, and the defector, Alexander Litvinenko, you might think that  the British Conservatives are not  exactly soulmates with Putin’s United Russia party.

But here is a strange thing: whenever the parliamentarians who make up the Council or Europe meet, almost all the leading European centre-right parties – including Germany’s Christian Democrats, whose leader is Angela Merkel, and France’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, founded in 2002 by Jacques Chirac – go into one room, while the Tories walk  wistfully by and into another room, to commune with the delegates from United Russia.

The reason is that when Mr Cameron was running for the Tory leadership, back in 2005, he promised to pull the party out of the grouping called the European People’s Party, to which other conservative parties belong, because it is too enthusiastically pro-EU.  There are disadvantages to belonging to no political group in Europe, so the Conservatives landed themselves with their strange bedfellows in the European Democrat Group.

It was reported that Mr Cameron was going to pull the Tories out five years ago, when Russia was behaving aggressively towards Georgia, but they are still there, because of an election promise he made eight years ago, as a sop to his restive and generally ungrateful right wing.

Can Tony avoid pitfall?

Tony Blair has been called upon to help sort out a crisis that is threatening 1,700 jobs in a copper mine on the edge of a vast desert. He will shortly be making a trip to Mongolia to advise them on how to negotiate with Rio Tinto Zinc, whose annual earnings match the country’s GDP. It owns two-thirds of a vast new mine, Oyu Tolgoi, on the edge of the Gobi desert. The other third is owned by the Mongolian government.

This is one of the biggest investments  in Mongolia’s history, and the government is anxious to extract as much as possible to finance the country’s growth.

RTZ is not in such a hurry: its concern is to cut costs and reduce debt – though last month the company announced underlying earnings of $4.2bn (£2.7bn) in the first six months of this year. Mongolia’s GDP in the year 2011 was $8.7bn. The argument has yet to be sorted. Over to you, Mr Blair.

Stop wasting police time, Yvette

One thing you might suppose the public is entitled to know is how quickly they can rely on their local police to answer a 999 call. Staff working for Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, thought they would ask around, to see if police cuts were making police responses slower, so sent a Freedom of Information request around the various forces.

We do not know how long it takes us to answer a 999 call, Dyfed Powys’s finest replied. They added that finding out would entail plodding through records of every 999 call made for four years, and since they receive up to 68,000 such calls a year, answering the question would use up 8,471.26 hours of police time. Move along, please.

Porn sites top of Parliament’s list?

The Huffington Post website reveals that thousands of attempts have been made from computers on the parliamentary network to access pornography – 114,844 in the peak month, last November, though only 15 this February.

The total of almost 300,000  requests (more than 800 a day) was released by Palace of Westminster IT chiefs in response to an FOI request. It is all for research purposes, I am sure.

Avoid those cliches like the plague

Bloomberg journalist Robert Hutton has just produced a book on newspaper slang and cliches, which tears the lid off  a spiralling wave of blistering jargon engulfing readers. This inspires me to pay tribute to  the Sky News website, which headlined a story about a US police officer who used a picture of a councillor for target practice “Police Chief under fire for ‘Shooting’ Councillor”. Was he ‘under fire’ or was he ‘firing’? The intro does nothing to end the confusion: “A Pennsylvania police chief says he expects to be fired …”;

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice