Andy McSmith's Diary: Lib Dem attack on Tory minister seems flea-bitten


The Tory Justice minister Helen Grant must be bracing herself for the inevitable right-wing reaction to her suggestion that some women locked in our jails should not be there. With that before her, she probably scarcely noticed the attack fired in her direction in her Maidstone and the Weald constituency.

A buffoon named Jasper Gerard, a former journalist and biographer of Nick Clegg, drew attention to himself last month when he airily dismissed claims of sexual harassment by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard, telling the BBC: “It was only touching a woman’s knee; it’s hardly Jimmy Savile.”

Gerard has been chosen to contest Maidstone and the Weald for the Liberal Democrats, and has opened his campaign in style by being quoted in the Kent & Sussex Courier as saying: “If Mr Bean had a wife, she would be Helen Grant.”

When right-wing tabloids are out to get you, an attack like that must feel like being bitten by a flea when you’re being stung by a horde of wasps.

Belly-aching Beloff

One of the many delights to be found among the latest papers released yesterday by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust is a splenetic letter from Lord Beloff, founder and head of Britain’s first independent university, in Buckingham, who was enraged by television images of women peaceniks camped outside the military base at Greenham Common.

Their protest, Lord Beloff told Baroness Thatcher, in a letter dated 14 December 1982, was just “an induced mass hysteria … impervious to argument”. He added: “I shall not be content until it’s as hazardous to wear a CND badge on the streets of London as it would be to sport a swastika in Tel Aviv.”

A Judy to be proud of

Almost 10 years to the day after a Liverpool gangster, George Kelly, was posthumously cleared of the murder for which he was hanged in 1950, Cherie Blair. below, has played a fitting tribute to the barrister who fought in vain to save him. Kelly originally said he did not want a “Judy” to handle his case, but ended up in awe of his lawyer, Rose Heilbron.

It was the first murder case in British legal history to be handled by a woman barrister. The Jewish Chronicle reports that Mrs Blair told an Israeli Business Club dinner that Dame Rose “was extraordinarily famous in Liverpool as one of the great daughters of the city. I thought ‘if one girl from Liverpool could make it in the law, maybe this girl from Liverpool could do it too.’  

MPs’ central heating

Fourth-year physics students at Leicester University have calculated that the hot air caused by MPs’ “prolonged speaking” in the Commons generates 10 kilowatts of heat, not nearly enough to keep the place warm on a cold day. Counter-intuitive.

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