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Andy McSmith's Diary: No limit to the temerity of the EU - even our faulty kettles are at risk


A threat to the British way of life filled the front page of today’s Daily Express. “Now kettles face EU ban – Brussels meddlers in another assault on our way of life,” the headline declared.

Peter Wilding, who heads, British Influence, was not at all impressed. This was pure “scaremongering”, he retorted. But what Mr Wilding cannot deny is that Brussels has commissioned a report on the eco-design of various types of electrical equipment, in which it is alleged that kettles are among the worst-designed pieces of domestic equipment, that on average they break down within seven years, and one in 100 packs up within a year.

Anyone can see where this is heading: it is the start of a Brussels plot to deny the British consumer that inalienable right to buy a kettle that is going to pack up as soon as it has left the shop. Is there no limit to EU interference?

Under the yoke of Brussels

Meanwhile, John Redwood, an assiduous anti-EU Tory MP, has tabled a series of written parliamentary questions to wheedle out just how much we are under the Brussels thumb.

He asked government law officers how many new EU regulations have been transposed into British law since May 2010. The Solicitor General Robert Buckland replied that “the Law Officers’ Departments have not transposed any EU directives or regulations into UK law since May 2010”.

He asked individual departments to reveal how many times since May 2010 they have been hauled before the European Court of Justice by the Brussels Commissioners, using what are called “infraction” proceedings, for not complying with instructions coming from Brussels.

The business minister Matthew Hancock, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, health minister Jane Ellison and international development minister Lynne Featherstone have answered. Their answers are: none, none, none and none. Mr Redwood is very clever. He will be able to explain how this shows that we need to get the Brussels bureaucrats off our backs.

In praise of knitting

The newly appointed minister for civil society, Brooks Newmark, has raised hackles by saying that charities should be “sticking to their knitting”. Frances Crook, of the Howard League, regards his language as “sexist”.

Does the minister think that charities hand out “baskets of home-made socks to the poor”, she asked? In fact, Ms Crook is missing a cultural reference. “Stick to your knitting” is a phase used by Tom Peters, author the business manual In Search of Excellence. It simply means stick to what you are good at. Nor is Newmark the first minister to use it. In the new book, How to be a Minister, co-authored by the former Labour cabinet minister John Hutton and Whitehall mandarin Leigh Lewis, there is the same advice, directed at ministers – “Sticking to your knitting has a lot to be said for it.”

A record for fickleness?

I mentioned the other day I had had the distressing experience of being unfollowed on Twitter by the chairman of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps. I was walking along a Westminster corridor when a voice exclaimed: “I saw what you wrote!” It was the man himself.

He offered to follow me again, if I would follow him back. I agreed, and at 10.03pm an email told me that once again I had the honour of being followed by @grantshapps. But foolishly, I left it until eight o’clock the following morning to carry out my half of the deal. Too late: he had unfollowed me already.

I have now been followed, unfollowed, re-followed and re-unfollowed by Shapps. The address is @andymcsmith, if he wants to help me set a record.