Andy McSmith's Diary: John Healey’s submission fuels Caroline Flint's paranoia

Why did John Healey put his name forward for the Labour deputy leader contest in the first place?

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John Healey’s decision to pull out of the Labour deputy leader contest will fuel the paranoia of some who are backing Caroline Flint. They could not understand why he put his name forward in the first place. Flint represents a seat in Yorkshire. So does Healey. Was it all a plot, masterminded by the Blofeld-like frontrunner, Tom Watson, to prevent Flint getting the nominations she needed?

If so, it failed. At present only two candidates have the 35 signatures to stay in the race – Watson and Flint.

Watson has said that if the leader is a man, the deputy leader should be a woman. Assuming he is serious, it would mean that if Andy Burnham won the leadership contest, Watson would concede the deputy leadership at the last minute to the woman contestant who had the highest vote.

With Healey out of the race, it increases the possibility that another woman, such as Angela Eagle, could get on the ballot paper.

Earth didn’t move for Alan

News that a British woman has been arrested for causing an earthquake by stripping on a sacred mountain in Malaysia reminds me that years ago I climbed Helvellyn in the Lake District with three friends, including a future Cabinet minister, Alan Milburn.

It was a basking hot summer day, and Milburn’s tight jeans absorbed so much heat that he removed them. We photographed him at the summit in only his underpants. But there was no earthquake.

It’s a long, painful Labour

Reaction to David Miliband’s hint that he might return to the UK politics has been mixed.

Alastair Campbell was first out, promising that he would lead a campaign to remove whoever is elected Labour leader this September, should that person prove to be inadequate. That would create an opportunity for Miliband to return like the prince from across the water.

The columnist Jenni Russell, by contrast, weighed in to say it was a “fantasy” to imagine that Labour would have won in 2015 under the leadership of the other Miliband. She is godmother to Ed Miliband’s children.

Then John Prescott erupted, telling the BBC’s Politics Today programme that “the Miliband period is now gone”, David Miliband should “shut up” and Campbell should “stay at home”. Afterwards, the former spin doctor and the former Deputy Prime Minister took to Twitter to continue their argument.

When Boris met Len…

Under an archway beside the yard beneath Big Ben, as the shadows lengthened at the end of the parliamentary day on 10 June, Boris Johnson was locked in a prolonged handshake with Len McCluskey, leader of Unite. What plot were they hatching?

Best tracksuit bottoms help

It must have been an anti-climax for Peter Smith to go back for another meeting of Wigan Council this week. He was not supposed to be there. Lord Smith, who has been on Wigan Council since 1978, and has led it since 1991, was in line to be interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, a post created as part of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse.

The meeting was called to choose his successor, but the new job in Manchester went to the former Labour MP Tony Lloyd.

Meanwhile, a councillor named Rob Brierley, who has been a constant pain in Lord Smith’s neck, had put himself forward to be on an important Greater Manchester committee. Said Lord Smith: “If I was looking to choose someone as a public representative of Wigan, even if he promised to wear his best tracksuit bottoms, I don’t think Cllr Brierley would be...” At that point, Wigan Today reports, he was silenced when Mr Brierley protested that he was being rude.