Andy McSmith's Diary: 'Pro-children' Tory dinosaur back to haunt Cameron on gay legislation
This week's Lords debate on gay marriage brought that doughty old Tory warrior Jill Knight back to the airwaves. At the age of 88, she is as certain as ever that she is right – and not afraid to say so.
During her career as a Birmingham MP, from 1966 to 1983, she backed hanging, defended Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech, supported white supremacist governments in Africa and, above all, is remembered as the prime mover behind the Section 28 legislation, which made it illegal for local councils to "intentionally promote homosexuality". This law achieved nothing, except to promote the kind of image of the Conservative party that David Cameron has struggled to shake off. The Prime Minister has apologised for Section 28, but not the Baroness, who claimed in a BBC Radio 5 Live interview that "children as young as four and five were being taught how to do homosexual acts". Do not ask where or when this happened: it was in a time and place that exists in the Baroness's imagination. In the same interview she insisted she was not "anti-homosexual", just "pro-children". Gays are "clever, very, very good at artistic things [and] very, very good at things like antiques", she added.
Labour's bright young star falls from grace
Two years ago, Jake Morrison was Britain's youngest Labour councillor. Today, he is a councillor, but not for Labour. He has been suspended after using social media to publicise a blazing row with the Liverpool Waverley MP and shadow minister Luciana Berger, who accused him of not being a team player. "Sadly I've just been informed I am suspended from the Labour Party. I am Labour through and through, and I hope this matter is resolved," he said.
Is a problem like Maria for the axe?
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, has still not agreed her departmental budget for the coming year with George Osborne. Last month, it emerged that the Culture Department's Permanent Secretary, Jonathan Stevens, has resigned without another job to go to. The Art Industry website quotes a message that Mr Stevens left on the departmental blog board praising the Civil Service's "core values of objectivity and impartiality".
When mandarins talk about impartiality, it is often a sign that they have fallen out with their political masters. Without a Permanent Secretary, there is speculation that Ms Miller will soon find herself without a department. The DCMS recently lost its Whitehall offices and is now lodging in the Treasury building. The 2012 Olympics have been and gone. From where George Osborne sits, scrapping the department could be a relatively painless money-saver. Ms Miller's office categorically denies any such threat is in the air.
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