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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: No Fry in that night as comic pulls out of Labour event


Stephen Fry has pulled out of a big Labour Party fundraising event because he doesn’t like the way the party treated one of his friends.

Paul Gambaccini was one of the celebrities swept up in Operation Yewtree. He was arrested in October, released on bail but has not been charged. The 65-year-old DJ is a longstanding Labour sympathiser who was expecting to be invited to a previous party fund-raiser. But when the invitation arrived, after the avalanche of publicity that surrounded his arrest, it was for his partner Christopher Sherwood only.

Gambaccini, I am told, angrily compares Labour’s rejection of him with the way the Conservatives stood by the MP Nigel Evans through his highly publicised trial. Stephen Fry sympathises. Labour’s hopes of getting the comic and national treasure to their 9 July event are fading, though Alastair Campbell is trying to mend fences.

Pizza the action

David Cameron found time in his crowded schedule to attend a garden party on Wednesday night, given by the Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange. It was a chance to reminisce about life at Policy Exchange in the 2005, when Cameron was weighing up whether to enter a leadership election that was then thought to be a shoo-in for David Davis. “There were some phenomenally bright people in the room,” he said. “Nicholas Boles, George Osborne, Michael Gove, Daniel Finkelstein – none of them ever stopped talking, but as far as I could see – and I was the quiet one eating the pizza on the floor – they had some pretty bright ideas about what needed to happen on the centre-right of British politics, so I stole all their ideas, took up the ball, and ran with it.” Of such stuff are political leaders made.

Are you talking about me?

In the same talk, David Cameron made a passing reference to a “career progression from special adviser to psychopath”. He named no names, though the following morning Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings, tweeted “to hacks & mental health charities: NO, I am NOT making any complaints/ministerial code etc re DC calling me a ‘psychopath’, all’s fair...”

That’s all right, then

A press officer from the Sweden Democrats, Ukip’s new partners in the European Parliament, comes on the line objecting to my description of SD as having been founded as a “white supremacist” party. He does not dispute academic research which says that SD’s “heritage is racism and neo-Nazism”, or that Nazis and fascists were in the party at its beginnings, but that is not to say its founding principle was promoting white supremacy, he argues. And when the party imposed a ban on uniforms in the 1990s, it was not to stop members dressing up as Nazis but to discourage violent skinheads. Nigel Farage will be relieved.

The wit to woo

Social media became excited yesterday when a tweet from the Labour press team suggested that Ed Miliband had come up with a policy that was not too left wing, nor too right wing, and had the wit to woo the voters. “Everybody should have his own owl,” it read. Sad to say, their Twitter feed had been hacked.

Working together

First came Lord Mandelson telling Newsnight that Ed Miliband is not creating a “convincing narrative.” Then up popped Gordon Brown’s ex-bruiser, Damian McBride, opining that “it’s hard for the generals to sit down and plan how to win each week when Labour currently has no generals”. After all those years of fighting each other, Labour’s unreconstructed Blairities and unreconstructed Brown- ites at last have a project on which to work together – rubbishing Ed Miliband.