Andy McSmith's Diary: If any other MP had suffered the same fate as George Galloway...
George Galloway has given his first interview since the fracas on a Notting Hill street which left him badly bruised and in need of hospital treatment, and has complained about the muted reaction from other politicians to his misfortunes.
“It seems very strange. They are always telling us how much they hate violence and terrorism, how much they believe in the rule of law, free speech and democracy, but when it came to the attack on me their lips were sealed,” he told the Russian-owned news channel, RT.
He added: “Britain is not really the kind of country where MPs are savagely attacked in this way – certainly not when they are six times elected, 27 years in parliament and have just turned 60.”
He has a point. There is a limit to what can be written about this case, because a man has been charged with religiously aggravated assault, which he denies. However, Galloway is a man who arouses passions. He can be brilliant, as when he recently put the case for Scotland staying in the UK with more eloquence than we have heard from anyone else. He can also be stupidly, pointlessly offensive, as when he stomped out of a debate at Oxford University when he learnt that his opponent was an Israeli. But it is hard to imagine any other MP suffering the pain and bruises he incurred last Friday evening without there being an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from fellow MPs of every shade.
Poor old George.
Swing high, sweet Clacton
For lovers of political trivia, the big question arising from Douglas Carswell’s decision to force a by-election in Clacton on 9 October is not who will win – he will – but whether he will pull off the biggest swing ever achieved in a UK by-election. The current record holder is Simon Hughes, who scored a 44 per cent swing in Bermondsey in 1983 against Labour’s Peter Tatchell, who was the target of virulent homophobic innuendo.
According to the latest poll, commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative share of the vote in Clacton will fall from 53 per cent scored in 2010 to 24 per cent. That is a 29 point drop. Carswell, under his new colours, is expected to take 56 per cent. A curious detail from the data published by Lord Ashcroft is that 77 of the 1001 people polled claimed to have voted Ukip in 2010 – unlikely, because there was no Ukip candidate in Clacton. So Ukip’s vote is currently forecast to rise from nought to 56, creating a swing from Conservatives to Ukip of 42.5 per cent. Hughes may yet hold on to his record – but it will be close.
Isle of no man
Today’s Hansard records that since November 2011 148 people have emigrated from St Helena, the volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic that was Napoleon’s last resting place. It may not sound like many, but the island has no more than 4,500 inhabitants, so it is haemorrhaging over 1 per cent of its population per year. This is not connected to wild reports about alleged abuse on the island which appeared in the tabloid press in July, but to the island’s struggling economy, which is almost wholly dependent on British aid. Let us hope the £250m the Government has invested in a new St Helena airport, due to open next year, reverses the decline. Otherwise, planes will be landing on an island where no one lives.
No hashtags for Helen
That wonderful actress Dame Helen Mirren is not a fan of social media. “It reminds me of a stinky old pub. In the corner would be this slightly disgusting old man who sits there all day, every day. If you went up and talked to him, you’d get the kind of grumpy, horrible, mouldy old meaningless crap that you read on Twitter!” she tells Saga magazine.
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