Andy McSmith's Diary: Say what you like about her, but Harriet Harman wouldn't say this


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Indy Politics

Imagine you are a woman no longer in your twenties and so obsessed with the way you look that you cannot resist constantly posting photographs of yourself on social media, preferably with loads of cleavage on show.

Imagine also that you have dabbled in politics but have decided to give it up. If you fitted that description, would you not just love it if a prominent woman politician told you that you were too pretty to be in politics?

Karen Danczuk, a 31-year-old, selfie-obsessed Rochdale councillor (and wife of the Labour MP Simon Danczuk), who is quitting local politics, claimed via Twitter today: “When I first met Harriet Harman, she said I was far too pretty to be interested in politics and should be in Girls Aloud.”

Harman has been in politics longer than Danczuk has been alive, campaigning to get more women to go into politics and to get men not to judge women by their looks. Her faults may be many, but it is blindingly obvious to anyone who even half knows her that it would never cross her mind to tell a woman she is too pretty for politics. Is there even anybody in politics stupid enough to believe Danczuk’s attention-seeking fantasy?

Er, yes, actually. After the tweet appeared, the Tory press office issued a statement from Karen Lumley, Tory MP for Redditch, saying: “This old-fashioned, 1950s-style sexism shows how patronising and out of date Labour really are.”

Don’t mention the flats

It could only happen in Hotel Gleneagles, in Torquay, the repository of British hospitality that inspired Fawlty Towers.

Members of Torquay’s planning committee turned up to inspect the site after receiving a planning application to convert it into flats, but the manager was not expecting them, and shut them out. The application has been turned down.

My love is like a... barracuda

If you are looking for a really smart, expensive Valentine’s Day card, there is a choice of designs on the website of Smythson – the firm where Samantha Cameron works as a part-time creative consultant, which is ultimately owned by the Guernsey-based Barracuda Trust. Being based in Guernsey is a form of what we now know as “vanilla” tax avoidance.

The cards cost £10 each.

Foreign Office sweethearts

And if you are taking a Valentine’s Day break abroad, you might want to consult the “sweethearts guide to a more romantic break” on the Foreign Office website.

“Avoid going weak at the knees at the airport,” it advises. And “you’ll give the game away if your ring is wrapped up in your luggage and you are searched”. Each line is illustrated with a love heart, which you click on for more information.

Going Green, Ed?

New rules on lobbying mean that anybody planning to campaign during the election has to declare any large donations they receive.

Thus we learn, via the Electoral Commission, that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has given £11,225 to an internet wonk named Matt Chocqueel-Mangan, who is running a project called “Vote for Policies”. The idea is you log on and choose subjects that matter to you, such as “democracy” or “crime”. You will then be asked to read six sets of policies, and you click on the ones that impress you most. That way, you find out which party’s programme is closest to what you believe.

If the results so far are anything to go by, our next government will be a coalition led by the Green Party, with Natalie Bennett as prime minister and Ed Miliband as her deputy.