Andy McSmith's Diary: Looking like Rasputin helps - ex-Tory whip beats Labour's Chris Bryant to Russian job

 

There were chaotic scenes in a Commons committee room today, when more than 200 MPs crammed in to cast their votes. It was so crowded that some grabbed handfuls of ballot papers off the table, to pass to those at the back.

They were contesting the chairmanship of one of the all-parliamentary groups which normally struggle to get more than 10 people to a meeting. However, this was the all-Party Parliamentary Russia Group, and one of the candidates for the chairmanship was the Labour MP Chris Bryant.

As well as having an abrasive style of arguing that annoys a lot of Tory MPs, Mr Bryant has a track record as one of the most relentless critics of the Putin regime. The Tory whips were determined that the chairmanship should go to John Randall, a former whip who has a beard like Rasputin and speaks Russian. My spies say that the room was stuffed with whips and ministers, including at least one Cabinet minister. A Tory MP was heard to say as he emerged: “It’s like the Crimea in there.” Randall won by 126 to 96.

Miliband takes a break

Standing in the queue in a Commons café to buy a lunch, I was a trifle surprised to be joined by Ed Miliband, also on the hunt for a snack. Normally at that time on a Wednesday, he is descending from the adrenaline rush of Prime Minister’s Questions, but with David Cameron away in Israel, he was excused their weekly joust. “My favourite day of the week is Wednesday when there’s no PMQs” he said cheerfully.

Firing shot at Syria

Ed’s day started well when his old enemy, the former First Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, told the BBC’s Today programme that the leadership he had shown by not committing Labour to holding an EU referendum was a “game changer”. Mandelson was not always so supportive. It was with him in mind that Miliband once pointedly remarked: “All of us believe in dignity in retirement.”

But the olive branch from one old Blairite was followed later by a barbed comment from another, when Labour MP John Woodcock raised the subject of Syria: “We must all bear responsibility for our shameful failure to intervene.” Last August, Woodcock favoured taking action against the Assad regime but voted loyally with Miliband against rushing in, not anticipating that David Cameron, having been defeated, would then rule out action altogether.

Fruitful October for peers

Summer is the lean season for those troughers in ermine, peers who have been embroiled in scandal but who cannot be stopped from going in and out of the House of Lords to claim the £300-a-day tax-free attendance allowance.

In October, there were 16 sitting days, and figures show that Baroness Uddin was there on each of them, thereby pocketing the full £4,800. Baroness Uddin’s membership of the Lords was suspended in 2010 when she had to repay £125,000 worth of expenses she had wrongly claimed.

One of the first Lords to be suspended was Lord Taylor of Blackburn, a Labour peer caught in a newspaper sting, in which he appeared to be willing to use his influence in exchange for cash, who excused his behaviour then by saying that he was “easily confused”. But not so confused that he failed to claim the full £4,800.

The ex-Tory leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield, missed one day, unusually, so trousered only £4,500. It was during that month that this ex-jailbird broke a long silence by speaking during a committee meeting.

It was he whom a Daily Mirror photographer caught taking just 21 minutes to nip in and out of the building to secure his tax free £300.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Executive, London

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly prestigious luxury b...

C++ Software Developer / Image Processing / 3D Visualisation

£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: C++ Software Developer / Image Process...

Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux

£30,000 to £40,000: IT Connections Ltd: Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux ...

Software Development Manager / Java / J2EE

£45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: Software Development Manager / Java / ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor