Andy McSmith's Diary: Sir Malcolm Bruce - so many years in Parliament, so little of interest to say


Somebody should compile a compendium of “Interesting Things Sir Malcom Bruce Has Said in his 30 years in Parliament”. It would be a labour of love, a challenge, involving hours and hours of research, but not many results.

Don’t misunderstand: I am not suggesting for a moment that he has not contributed to Parliamentary life. Even now, as he approaches what is to be his final year as an MP, he is on his feet addressing the Commons two or three times a month, and in his younger days he said a great deal more. Everything he said is sensible, and lacking in malice.

But being interesting was not his strongest suit. The best I could find by way of an interesting Sir Malcolm Bruce quote was that he once said: “I probably suffer fools too gladly.” At a time when The Teletubbies were all the rage, and Sir Malcolm was Treasury spokesman for the Lib Dems – arguably the most important role he ever held – he did inspire a memorable one-liner from Tony Blair.

Invited during Prime Minister’s Questions to comment on Sir Malcolm’s claim to have found £190m available for spending on public services, Blair remarked that “Tinky Winky would make a better economic spokesman for the Liberal Democrats.” But being the butt of a memorable put down is not the same thing as actually saying something that someone can remember.

Anyway, congratulations to Sir Malcolm on being elected this week as Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, beating the younger, livelier Lorely Burt, who would have been the party’s first female deputy leader. As some wag said, that would have been Lorely.

The name of the game is…

A fun new game, pioneered by political wonks from Nottingham University, is to type a simple question into Google consisting of the word “Is…” followed by the name of a Cabinet minister, to see what word or phrase Google suggests to complete the sentence.

For the Prime Minister, it offers “Is David Cameron Scottish?” For Theresa May, more mysteriously, it is “turning into Cara Delevingne?”

This peaked my curiosity about what might happen if you tried the same exercise on Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. For Ed Miliband, the list of most searched queries is topped by “Is Ed Miliband rich?” followed by “white?”, “a communist?” and “English?” For Ed Balls the top one is “an idiot?” For Yvette Cooper it is “married to Ed Balls?”, for Rachel Reeves “pregnant?”, for Hilary Benn “related to Tony Benn?” and for Peter Hain “Welsh?”

Several of the others are so invisible they do not produce any questions at all. Douglas Alexander is an exception. Type his name, and up comes the query “Who is Douglas Alexander?”

Why so vague on Hague, PM?

“I’m very lucky that I’ve had the same Home Secretary, the same Chancellor, the same Education Secretary, the same Welfare Secretary all the way through this parliamentary term,” David Cameron told BBC Radio 2’s Wright in the Afternoon programme. The fact that he has also had the same Deputy Prime Minister throughout must have just slipped his mind. And why no mention of William Hague?

Such a bad call, councillor

An Edinburgh councillor, Cammy Day, has been fined £100, with three points on his licence, for having a mobile phone in his hand while driving. As well as being Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh West, a seat they hope to take off the Lib Dems in 2015, Mr Day is a Cabinet member on Edinburgh Council, responsible for community safety. Tut!