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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Nadine Dorries returns from the political wilderness


UKIP’s success in last week’s local elections is having an impact already. Nadine Dorries, who had the Tory whip taken away because of her appearance on I’m a Celebrity, has got it back, thereby heading off the risk that she might defect to Ukip.

It was hostility from Downing Street that kept her out for so long, and her return does nothing to improve the diminished authority of David Cameron and George Osborne – the “arrogant posh boys”, as she memorably described them – but the threat that backbench MPs might use a recent and little-known rule to reinstate her in defiance of Downing Street seems to have concentrated minds.

Skinner’s irreverence topped by a Tory

Dennis Skinner, the veteran left-wing Labour MP, has a well-known habit of debunking the pomp and ceremony of the day of the Queen’s Speech. Today, in the silence that followed the summons by Black Rod for MPs to proceed to the Lords, Skinner called out: “Royal Mail for sale, Queen’s head privatised.”

However, that was quite respectful compared with a tweet by Douglas Carswell, on the Tory right. He wrote: “Good to see cosy, back-slapping camaraderie in House of Commons. Perfect antidote to those who see us as a smug, self-regarding clique.”

Spin doctor smoked out over tobacco omission

Lynton Crosby, David Cameron’s Australian-born adviser, is running foul of the rule that spin doctors should be manipulating the news, not appearing in it.

Ed Miliband named him during his Commons speech, because his lobbying firm Crosby Textor has links to the tobacco industry, and a proposal to compel cigarette companies to introduce plain packaging, which the industry opposed, failed to make it into the Queen’s Speech.

Crosby is threatening to draw vastly more attention to himself in his native land, where he and his business partner, Mark Textor, have begun a libel action against Australia’s Minister for Defence Material, Mike Kelly, a Labor MP who posted a tweet accusing Crosby Textor of “push polling”.

That particular marketing technique, in which an organisation pretends to be conducting an opinion poll while actually asking questions that seek to influence respondents’ thinking, is illegal in Australia. The case has already reached a Federal Court, where the judge commented that it was “heading down the path of a famous defamation”.

It used to be said that spin doctors are like poisoners: there are famous poisoners and successful poisoners, but no famous, successful poisoners. Crosby is on a path to fame.

Kent Tory resurfaces  in Ukip’s colours

A little over six years ago, there was trouble on Tory-controlled Thanet District Council, in Kent, over a lengthy email about Muslim suicide bombers that was considered by those who read it to be racist.

The council’s deputy leader, Roger Latchford, a retired lieutenant-colonel, had received the message and forwarded it from his home computer to friends, including other district councillors. A year later, someone leaked it to the Labour group. There was a call for Colonel Latchford’s resignation. He denied doing anything wrong, but stood down at the next election anyway “for personal and family reasons”.

Later, he quit the Conservatives and joined Ukip. He resurfaced in last week’s elections, and is now leader of the official opposition on Kent County Council, where Ukip have more councillors than Labour. One of his first priorities, he told the Thanet Gazette, is to campaign against the legalisation of gay marriage.

Mirren and Paterson enjoy common currency

Helen Mirren, the actress now best known for playing the Queen, and the Scottish character actor Bill Paterson, currently appearing at the Royal Court, playing Adam Smith, author of The Wealth Of Nations, were having a lively chat at a party on the South Bank during which they were overheard reminding each other of the unique claim that unites them. The characters they play are on the front and back of every £20 note.