Andy McSmith's Diary: In a league of his own - Sepp Blatter scores an early own goal


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Indy Politics

Something stirs in the memory from a grim day in April 1989 when MPs debated the Hillsborough disaster. It was not one of Parliament’s finest shows. There was too much blaming the victims of that appalling event, but at least the former Sports Minister Denis Howell, spoke up in defence of the Liverpool fans, deploring the way certain officials of Fifa had jumped in to condemn them, including one who asked: “Will the fans never learn?” Who was this numbskull? Howell named him. It was Sepp Blatter.

Though seven Labour MPs have put themselves forward for the job of deputy leader of the party, there is no way that all seven names will get onto the ballot paper. A candidate needs to be nominated by a minimum of 35 Labour MPs, and since there are only 235 Labour MPs, that makes six the largest possible number of contestants. In reality, even six is a near impossibility, because the front runner will always have more backers than the required minimum, reducing the numbers available to others.

The leadership contest has taken shape. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall are all expected to round up the necessary numbers, while some MPs  deliberately hold back to see how Mary Creagh gets on, and will add their names to her list if she has a realistic chance of reaching the magic number of 35.

But I am told that there could be only two candidates for the deputy leadership contest – Tom Watson and Caroline Flint – unless they ‘release’ some of their backers to enable a third candidate, such as Angela Eagle, to join in. Of the seven wannabes, the one who is perhaps best known is Stella Creasy, because of the effective campaign she ran over pay day loans. But being known outside Parliament is not the same as being popular with fellow MPs. Her chances of finding 35 nominations are low.

Huw Merriman, newly elected Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle has told the BBC that he has given up his £160,000 consultancy role with the liquidators of Lehman’s Bank, because his priority is now with his constituents. In that case, it is rather mysterious that the chairman of the Bexhill and Battle Conservative Association, Stephen Rowlinson, has resigned, saying that he had tried to prevail upon Mr Merriman to give what could be a politically damaging second job, but "it became clear nothing would change his mind". Either there has been a gross misunderstanding, or somebody has executed a dramatic u-turn.

Carol Monaghan, one of the newly elected SNP MPs from Glasgow, claims via Twitter to have overheard n exchange between Boris Johnson and a Tory MP standing next to him during the Queen’s Speech. “Why are there all these school girls here?” the Mayor inquired. The other responded: “Those are our MPs.”

A similar comment was overheard in the long queue outside one of the few ladies toilets in the House of Lords, where a very well dressed woman complained that she was being kept waiting because there were: “Too many girls in long dresses!” There were indeed a great many ladies in the House of Lords yesterday, dressed in their finest, many of whom were in early middle age, which might make them look like ‘girls’ to certain of the longer serving baronesses.