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 …”

a.mcsmith@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@andymcsmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project