Andy McSmith's Diary: Michael Gove invokes Jimmy Carter over Cummings (and goings)


Contempt would appear to be the strongest emotion coursing through the veins of Michael Gove’s former political adviser, Dominic Cummings – contempt for politicians such as Nick Clegg, whom he once described as “self-obsessed, sanctimonious and so dishonest”, and contempt for the Whitehall village  and almost all its inhabitants, apart from Gove, of course.

I am told when Cummings visits government departments these days, he signs himself in as “Osama bin Laden” as a mark of disrespect.

But then, his old boss can be contemptuous too, though he expresses his scorn for lesser minds in polite words and a soft tone. This was in evidence when the Labour MP Lisa Nandy stood up in the Commons wanting to know when Cummings ceased to hold a pass that allowed him free access to the Department  of Education. “I think,” Gove replied, “it was  Jimmy Carter who was attacked by critics for worrying about exactly who was using the tennis courts at the White House.”

A top top-down put-down

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had a sly dig at his predecessor during his talk at the press galley lunch. Andrew Lansley was the Health Secretary who insisted on forcing through highly controversial health reforms that made nonsense of David Cameron’s pre-election promise of “no more top-down reorganisation of the NHS.”

It is now rumoured that Lansley will be off  to Europe soon to serve  as a Commissioner.

“The Commission will be no doubt looking forward to top-down reorganisation,” Mr Hunt said, “which might be rather more popular than the reorganisation he is credited with here.”

Tehran, too late

It was a poignant experience for the Lib Dem former Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne to hear that the British embassy in Iran was reopening.

His father, Sir Nicholas Browne, was posted to Tehran as British ambassador in 1989, only to be sent home five weeks later when the Iranians closed the embassy. He was sent back to reopen it when the Labour government restored relations in 1997. But he was not available to offer his services this time: he died of Parkinson’s earlier this year, aged only 66.

MP bridges troubled waters

Penny Mordaunt, the Tory MP for Portsmouth North, is having to handle a sudden rise in the number of Portsmouth citizens coming to her with their problems – up 15 per cent in recent weeks.

This is not because of her star turn in the Commons on the day of the Queen’s Speech, which earned her much praise, nor even because of the spectacular belly flop she performed on the TV show Splash.

She says that people living in the south of the city have started to come to her surgeries because they are unsure of whether they still have an MP of their own to represent them.

Mike Hancock, Portsmouth South’s Lib Dem MP, has been treated in a Priory clinic for depression and was due in court this week in a civil case over alleged sexual harassment of a vulnerable constituent, which he denies.

It is understood that the court case is off because he and the complainant are negotiating a private settlement. “Mike has several issues – there is the matter of ill health and people feel they cannot go to him,” Ms Mordaunt told Portsmouth News.

Last month, Hancock lost the seat he has held on Portsmouth council for over 40 years, and when he leaves the Commons next year, his will be an extreme case of a long political career ending in sad failure.

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