Andy McSmith's Diary: Is anyone ready to cough up for Anne McIntosh’s constituency battle?


Anne McIntosh, the Tory MP whose political future hangs by a thread, has denied that she might resign and force a by-election in Thirsk and Malton. “That is a rumour started down here by someone who – let me put it like this – does not have my interests at heart,” she said.

Ms McIntosh was deselected by her local Conservative Association  for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with personalities.

There will now be a selection contest, from which an Old Etonian barrister, Edward Legard, is expected to emerge as her successor, because the modern Tory party – as everyone knows – has too many northern women MPs and too few Old Etonians.

One of Ms McIntosh’s nemeses, Peter Steveney, a 78-year-old former Army officer and pillar of the Jockey Club, stood down as chairman of the Conservative Association last week. But that does not help her cause, because the new chairman, Kenelm Storey, is also reported to want to see the back of her.

She has said that she will fight on. She would have scant chance of holding her seat against an official Conservative candidate at a general election, but might at a by-election, if she chose to force one. However, that would require organisation, and it would cost. “Do you want to be the first to contribute?” she asks.

I think I’ll let that opportunity pass.

Superior sounding

What would be the new name for England and Wales, were Scotland to vote to secede from Great Britain? The Tory MP Rory Stewart, who is half- English, half-Scottish, has a suggestion. Interviewed in this week’s Radio Times, he points out that the Romans used to call the land north of Hadrian’s Wall, which crosses his Penrith and the Border constituency, Britannia Inferior. To the south was Britannia Superior. I like it.

Knowing me, knowing him

“I do find it strange when I look at George Osborne and I think ‘I can’t believe he’s younger than me, he’s the sort of person that as a schoolboy I used to snigger at on the bus’,” Steve Coogan, 48, creator of Alan Partridge and mainstay of the Hacked Off campaign, tells Total Politics magazine.

Eloquently misled

The former Labour MP Dick Taverne has published a memoir, Against the Tide, in which he pays a tribute, of a sort, to Tony Benn, whose funeral will be held in Westminster on Thursday. He wrote “No one I knew could present misleading arguments with greater eloquence.” 

An authoritative answer?

Unionist politicians have been pushing the Government to obtain redress from Libya for the victims of the guns and Semtex that the Gaddafi regime supplied to the IRA. The Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi struck a cautious note when she was questioned in the Lords on Tuesday. She said: “Libya is going through an incredibly difficult period and we need to be realistic about what is actually possible.”

The next day, in the Commons, David Cameron was more gung-ho. “The Libyan authorities are in no doubt of the importance that we attach to their engaging properly with UK victims seeking redress. I raised it most recently with the Libyan Prime Minister last September,” he told the Democratic Unionist deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

In this instance, Baroness Warsi talked more sense than her boss. The Prime Minister to whom David Cameron spoke last September was Ali Zeidan. He was removed from office just over two weeks ago, and has fled Libya, so anything that passed between those two leaders is not going to be translated into relief for victims of the IRA. It would be interesting to find out if David Cameron even knows who “the Libyan authorities” are just now.

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