Andy McSmith's Diary: It’s not easy having principles when free drinks are on offer


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Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group, News UK, has been reaching out to the Labour Party. During the conference that’s just ended, it sponsored a marquee immediately outside the conference hall, where politicians and hacks could mingle amid the smell of good coffee. It also hosted a party to which every Labour MP was invited. Some accepted, some did not reply, but a tiny few – possibly only two – wrote back saying they refused on principle to accept hospitality from the company at the centre of the hacking scandal. One refusenik was Chris Bryant.

As the evening progressed, participants were surprised, therefore, to see the very same Chris Bryant arrive at the marquee. One Sun hack asked what he was doing there. Bryant pointed out that The Sun party had – technically – finished. He was taking up an invitation from the drinks conglomerate Diageo, to its party, which had just begun. The mischievous hack pointed out that this was News UK’s marquee: the company logo was all around. News UK’s director of communications, Guto Harri, approached Bryant to say he was most welcome to partake of the free drink, but did he realise where he was?

At this point – to adapt a phrase made famous by News of the World hacks – Bryant made an excuse and left.

Rupert’s moment of clarity

If you wonder why, in the end, The Sun’s Scottish edition did not come out in favour of independence, I’m told that it is because during Murdoch’s whistle-stop tour of Scotland this month, he was chatting to a farmer when he turned and saw a Yes campaigner – who had not spotted the media mogul – waving a banner that said “Kill the Rich”. If so, that protester helped in a small way to save the Union.

‘We will fight them on... er...’

Ed Miliband need not feel too badly about forgetting part of his conference speech. Something of the sort happened to Winston Churchill when he attempted to speak without notes to a packed House of Commons in 1904, aged 29. “There I stood, searching for the missing word. It never came,” he wrote afterwards.

“Finally, after at least two or three minutes, endured by the House with the greatest patience and kindness, I had to sit down, faltering out some lame apology.”

Churchill learnt his lesson, and never spoke without notes again. Ed Miliband is going to have to learn to use an autocue.

Twitter to the rescue

The power of social media! Mark Ferguson, the editor of the website LabourList, was refused a pass to next week’s Conservative Party conference. He took to Twitter to protest to his 16,000 followers: the Tories have relented.