Andy McSmith's Diary: Ukip in Europe? They’ll just grab the money and run, warns party founder


Now that UKIP has a huge contingent of 24 MEPs, what can we expect them to contribute to the European Parliament? Nothing, according to Ukip’s disenchanted founder, Alan Sked. “They don’t do anything constructive there, they just go there to take the money, the expenses and get pensions…They don’t articulate policies, they are hardly ever there,” said Professor Sked. He launched Ukip in 1993, but left in 1997 after his creation had become “a magnet for bigots.”

His scathing interview was broadcast – of all the possible outlets – on Russia Today. Fine thanks Nigel Farage gets for singling out the “brilliant” Vladimir Putin as the world statesmen he admires most.

Repeat of the tweet

The Tory MP Michael Fabricant has form. After last week’s incident, in which he tweeted that he might like to punch my colleague Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the throat, oblivious to the nastiness that such a comment dredges up from parts of the internet, a reader has pointed out that in his early days as an MP, in June 1998, Fabricant told the Commons that “the way to improve job opportunities for black people and other ethnic minorities in London and elsewhere is to instil in them a work ethic”.

The words tumble out while the brain is asleep.

Northern exposure

It is good that George Osborne has turned his thoughts to the north of England and is advocating that cities north of The Wash should be linked by high speed rail. Perhaps they could lay the tracks along those “large uninhabited and desolate areas” that Osborne’s father in law, Lord Howell, mentioned when he was explaining why fracking should take place only up north, not in the beautiful, inhabited south.

There is an intriguing back story in the Osborne family, not on his side but on that of his wife, Frances. Anyone who has read Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit of Love will remember a character in society known as The Bolter for her habit of fleeing from one marriage to the next. It has been often said, though not proven, that the character was based on a real life serial divorcee named Lady Idina Sackville, whose granddaughter married Lord Howell and so became the Chancellor’s mother in law. Hence the title of Frances Osborne’s book, The Bolter, about the skeleton in her family closet. There was a copy on sale at the weekend in the £1 bin of a London second hand bookshop. Undervalued, surely.

A star-crossed leader

For almost a generation, it has been a cliché that Denis Healey was the best leader the Labour Party never had. The old bruiser himself, now 96 years old, could be heard to say that Labour might have won the catastrophic election of 1983 if its MPs had only had the sense to elect him as their leader.

But when The Independent on Sunday recently included Lord Healey in a list of Ten Best Prime Ministers the Country never had, there was an unexpected response from his 65 year old son, Tim.

“My father would have made a rubbish prime minister,” Tim Healey reckons. “He was not clubbable enough, never bothered to nurture a coterie of supporters, and, suffering fools not gladly he could privately be very diminishing about people who were in his own camp. Dad’s supreme confidence in his own judgements meant that he lacked the simpler chairman-like skill of listening to other people."

His father, he says, was very comfortable working with the like-minded Jim Callaghan, but when Callaghan was due to retire, he remembers his father saying: “They’re talking about me as possibly the next prime minister. It’s ridiculous.” Asked why, he would only repeat: “It’s ridiculous.”

As a child of the 1960s, Tim Healy attributes his father’s unchairmanlike qualities to his being a Virgo.