Andy McSmith's Diary: Now Tim Loughton picks a fight with the boys in blue
Our man in Westminster
Tim Loughton, the Tory MP and former children's minister, has embroiled in an extraordinary confrontation row with Sussex Police, who have issued him with a warning notice for sending an unsolicited copy of a speech he made in Parliament to a man living in his constituency who evidently cannot stand him.
Since being sacked a year ago, Mr Loughton has developed a knack of getting into confrontations. Last month, he insulted the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, who worked with him at the education department, by saying that she was a bad minister for families because she had no children of her own.
Earlier, he accused his former boss, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, of running his department in the manner of the doddery Mr Grace from the old TV sitcom, Are You Being Served. In reply, someone on Mr Gove's side of the argument told The Spectator that Mr Loughton is a “lazy, incompetent narcissist.”
In March, the MP took the rare step of denouncing one of his constituents by name, on the floor of the House of Commons, for having allegedly “worked tirelessly to make my life hell.” He said that the man had called “an arrogant, lying racist arsehole” and much else, and had lodged a complaint against him with the police for calling him “unkempt” and accusing him by email of talking “bollocks.”.
No charge resulted, but after that speech, the police heard from the same man again. This time, he complained that Mr Loughton had sent him the Hansard record of the speech, which had allegedly caused him distress. In September - after a six month delay - Mr Loughton was issued with a notice warning him that if he repeated his conduct he could be liable for arrest and prosecution. Seemingly, the police are so fed up with this problem that, according to what Mr Loughton said in the Commons, they have sent the same warnings to Mr Loughton's antagonist, and to three local councillors who have crossed him.
It is a basic principle that an MP can never be prosecuted for what he or she says in the House of Commons. But once those remarks have entered into the official record, can they be prosecuted for sending a copy of them to someone whom they might upset? Mr Loughton thinks not. He has accused Sussex's Chief Constable has infringed the rights of Parliament. The Commons Privileges Committee will now consider the matter.
Miller's men were at the pizza parlay
Having survived a Cabinet reshuffle, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller risked having a dig at Downing Street's handling of the vexed issue of press regulation. There have been scathing reactions from some MPs since that evening in March when Nick Clegg and the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin met representatives of Hacked Off in Ed Miliband's office, to be consulted on a proposed press charter agreed by the main parties. There is a story, which Hacked Off emphatically, that they ate pizza as they settled the fate of the newspaper industry. When the Tory MP Conor Burns suggested that the events of that evening had contributed to “deep suspicion” in the industry about the proposed charter, Ms Miller more or less agreed. “The optics around 18 March did not help a difficult situation,” she told MPs.
It was that comment which lay behind a headline in the Daily Mail saying 'Minister hits at No 10 over stitch up on Press curbs.' However, in case Ms Miller is thinking of trying to suggest that the entire deal was cooked up behind her back, it should be recorded that also present on that Sunday were officials from her department.
The answer to Birmingham's taxing problem?
John Hemming, the millionaire Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley has offered his advice to council tax hit by the so-called 'bedroom tax'. “There is the option of taking in a lodger. People in the private sector get a lodger if they are a bit short of cash. Well, right now the country is a bit short of cash. It's an option,” he said. In Birmingham, seemingly, there are no other options, except to take the hit.
Supposedly, the 'bedroom tax' exists to encourage persuade tenants who have more rooms than they need - for instance because their children have grown up - to make way for bigger families. That assumes there is somewhere for them to move to, but according to the Birmingham Mail, in that city there are 75 single bedroom council properties available, and 11,257 people on the housing waiting list.
Harman labours under title burden
Harriet Harman must be busy. Looking at the new list of the opposition front bench, issued by the Labour Party press office, not only is she Deputy leader of the Labour Party, she is also chair of the Labour Party, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister. Four jobs: how does she cope?
Get the massage? Sorry, message
Here is a peculiar thing. The BBC issues a useful handbook that lists all the telephone numbers that anyone who works in political journalism could ever need, including the main number for the Conservative Party press office. However, should you ring that number, you will discover that you are through to Karaboon Thai Massage, close to Victoria Station. Very on massage, these Tory press officers.
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