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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Nigel Farage might want to catch up on his reading - of his own party's manifesto

I try hard not to insult people on air. For you I’m going to make an exception

With hindsight, Nigel Farage might have done better not to ask to be interviewed on BBC2’s Daily Politics yesterday. He had not read the manifesto on which Ukip fought the 2010 election, his excuse being that he had stood down from the leadership at the time when it was written. Unfortunately, the programme-makers had.

“Ukip is now against replacing Trident?” the interviewer, Andrew Neil, asked him. “I’m not sure where you got that from,” Farage replied. “From your website,” said Neil. “And you want a compulsory dress code for taxi drivers,” said Neil. “Do we? News to me,” was the reply.

Farage explained: “Under the last leadership, in the 2010 election, we managed to produce a manifesto that was 486 pages long, so you can quote me all sorts of bits of it that I will not know, and that’s why I have said none of it stands today and we will launch it all after the European elections.”

Actually, the manifesto was not 486 pages, it was 16 pages, with a foreword by Nigel Farage, so he was out by 470 pages. You could check this on Ukip’s website, were it not for the fact that it appears to have been taken down.

Farage was reminded of when he said that a woman working as a City broker who took maternity leave was “worth less” than a man. Defending it, Farage declared that, “City firms look at the bottom line”.

Sitting by him was Louise Cooper, a City analyst and mother, who told him: “I try hard not to lose my temper on air and I try hard not to insult people on air. For you I’m going to make an exception. What you are saying is laughable. You are talking out of your bottom.”

Until recently, Ukip operated on the principle that there was no such thing as bad publicity. Now, it is not so sure.

With friends like these...

Suddenly, Lord Rennard has a friend. Norman Tebbit, Margaret Thatcher’s old mucker who never showed much sympathy for anyone, feels sorry for the Lib Dem peer, and thinks that the entire case against him is a “farrago of nonsense”.

Lord Tebbit’s remark, in a blog on The Daily Telegraph website, rests on the belief that Lord Rennard is accused of nothing more than touching a woman’s clothed leg. Lord Rennard denies any wrongdoing, but there is more to the accusations than that.

There is also a hint of sympathy for the peer’s predicament, with darker overtones, from the Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb. He told the Eastern Daily Press: “I fear for his mental health. I don’t want anything awful to happen as a result of this.”

Legal Liberals

More than 30 years have slipped by since David Steel told an annual conference of the Liberal Party: “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.” But the phrase still lingers in the memory of the former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. He rings up to say that these days, “it seems to be ‘Go back to your QCs and prepare for court’”.

Power lunch

Last April, Andrew Cooper, the pollster who advised David Cameron on how to make the Tory party look less nasty, left Downing Street after losing out in a power battle with Australian attack dog Lynton Crosby, who specialises in a rougher style of politics. Yesterday, the two were seen lunching together. A reconciliation made in heaven.

Morning mix-up

It was thoughtful of the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was on Sky News’s Sunrise yesterday, to congratulate the presenter, Charlotte Hawkins, on her award. Only the award in question went to her absent colleague Eamonn Holmes. And it was not for Sunrise, but for ITV’s This Morning. That aside, the minister was on the money.