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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Rupert Murdoch takes on the gay 'bullies' over Guinness boycott of New York Saint Patrick's Day parade


Rupert Murdoch seems to have had one of his funny turns as he awoke on the morning of Saint Patrick’s Day. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, who for many years have organised the annual march through New York, have again refused to let gays and lesbians march under their own banner, on the grounds that to do so would offend their Catholic heritage.

The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, has consequently refused to join the march. And now Guinness, normally a generous sponsor of the event, has withdrawn its support. This was too much for Murdoch, who tweeted: “Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of religious parade bullied by gay orgs who try to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott the stuff.”

I can fully understand that the old boy does not like gay organisations, especially ones that bully – Murdoch being the sort of proprietor who would never allow any publications he owned to bully anyone - but telling the Irish not to drink Guinness on St Patrick’s Day suggests is hubristic, even for him.

An arsonist but not all bad

 Malcolm Small, a UKIP member of Rushmoor Borough Council, has narrowly missed being booted off the council. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to arson, after a domestic row during which he set fire to clothes belonging to his wife, for which he received a 12 week suspended prison sentence, and a restraining order.

If that had been 13 weeks instead of 12, by law he would be off the council. Mark Staplehurst, UKIP’s leader in Rushmoor, has confirmed that he is still in the party. “Had he been an embittered wife cutting up her husband’s suit, this case wouldn’t have got to court,” he said. “He’s a caring councillor, who works for residents of his ward. He’s not a nasty man, at all.” 

Plus ça change

 “I also did not want ‘Sex-Change MEP’ to be the default start to every headline.” Thus Nikki Sinclaire, the MEP who began life as a man, explained her initial reluctance to enter politics in a piece she wrote for the Daily Mail, which they published under a headline describing her as the “Sex Change MEP”

How the mighty have fallen

The once feared BNP, which in 2009 won nearly 944,000 votes and two seats in the European Parliament, is now in such a desperate condition that there is a notice on its website pleading for volunteers to be BNP candidates in this year’s euro election. The election is nine weeks away. Whether they can find candidates in time is pretty much academic because the chances that they will hold a seat are vanishingly small.

Bending the rules

During most of his speakership John Bercow, who was a right wing Tory in his youth, has found ways to annoy Tory MPs especially right wing Tories, but on Monday he hit upon an original way of annoying right wing Labour MPs, especially the older ones with long memories, by ruling that the Commons will put aside time to pay formal tributes to Tony Benn.

One Labour MP who still carries the scars of the in-fighting of the 1980s remarked furiously: “He was never a party leader, he never held any of the great offices, he certainly wasn’t prime minister: why are we paying tribute to him?”

Speaker Bercow’s answer, I understand, would be Benn’s longevity: his career in the Commons spanned 51 years. “Does that mean we’re going to have to have tributes to Sir Peter Tapsell?” the same MP demanded, not at all calmly. Sir Peter, 84 and still very much alive, has been an MP with one brief interruption since 1959.