Andy McSmith's Diary: Sir Malcolm Rifkind's exit clears path for Kensington's first female MP


Click to follow
Indy Politics

Kensington Conservative Association, which has suddenly lost its sitting MP, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, will be choosing a new candidate on Friday the 13th, and whoever they choose is as near as guaranteed to be the next MP. Party headquarters have received an avalanche of applicants, from which they will pick six names, which the local party will whittle down to three.

Neither Kensington constituency, nor its predecessor, Kensington and Chelsea, which was abolished in 2010, nor North Kensington, which existed from the 1880s until 1974, has ever returned a woman MP. But that might be about to change. High-powered women showing an interest include London’s deputy mayor, Victoria Borwood, a former Kensington councillor who has been called the “eyes and ears” of Boris Johnson; Simone Finn, the university girlfriend of Michael Gove who works as special adviser for Francis Maude; and Laura Trott, one of David Cameron’s advisers.

The best source for spiky gossip about Kensington and Chelsea Council and the ghastly Tories who run it is a blog called From the Hornets’ Nest, written by someone who styles herself The Dame. I see she is now threatening to join the competition, but her many victims need not fear, as she needs to be on the candidates’ list they keep at headquarters. Though I don’t know her name, I would bet she is not.

Body blow for mourners

The death from cancer last December of the Tory MEP Philip Bradbourn was a lonely business. He had no immediate family, so his  long-serving chief of staff, Alastair Little, was designated his next of kin so he could make the necessary phone calls to get the MEP cremated. It now turns out that Bradbourn missed his own funeral, poor man.

Because of a macabre slip up, a man named Peter Bradburn, who also died just before Christmas, was cremated in his place. When mourners turned up later for Bradburn’s funeral, at the same Wolverhampton crematorium, they were in fact seeing off the mortal remains of the lonely MEP. Central England Cooperative Funeralcare is investigating.

Mandelson, the role model

The actor Mark Gatiss was most recently seen in Wolf Hall as the creepy, conniving bishop Stephen Gardiner. Before that, he played Sherlock Holmes’s creepy brother, Mycroft. Next, in a complete departure, he will appear in Channel 4’s political drama Coalition, playing that servant of the people, Lord Mandelson.

Or is it a complete departure? “Mandelson was a direct influence on how I played Mycroft,” he says in the freebie newspaper Waitrose Weekend. “He and Mycroft and Gardiner are all essentially the same sort of figure – very shadowy string-pullers, the sort of people you could imagine sitting out a world war.”

Grayling’s Pannick attack

Chris Grayling, the current Lord Chancellor, is said by some to be the worst lord chancellor in living memory. Others would argue that verdict is too kind. Lord Pannick, one of the country’s leading barristers, who belongs to no political party, summed up Grayling’s achievement on Wednesday evening in the polite and understated language they use in the House of Lords,

“Mr Grayling’s period of office has been notable only for his attempts to restrict judicial review and human rights, his failure to protect the judiciary against criticism from his colleagues; and the reduction of legal aid to a bare minimum,” he said.

As for the fees Grayling proposes to charge litigants in civil courts, he added: “His finale before the general election is to undermine basic access to justice. If you wrap yourself in the Magna Carta, as Mr Grayling sought to do last week, you are inevitably and rightly going to invite scorn and ridicule if you then throw cold water over an important part of our legal heritage.”