Andy McSmith's Diary: Some parties do have 'em... the travails of Ukip hopefuls


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Indy Politics

After all the trouble Ukip has had selecting a candidate in Basildon South it has good reason to be pleased with its eventual choice of Ian Luder, a former Lord Mayor of London.

First it picked a local man, Kerry Smith, but he was induced to make way for Natasha Bolter, a glamorous defector from Labour. But Bolter bolted, claiming sexual harassment by Ukip’s general secretary, Roger Bird. A party investigation concluded that their relationship was consensual. Kerry Smith was then reinstated, but had to be dropped after it emerged that he had used the expression “disgusting poofters” in a telephone conversation.

Ian Luder comes with a clean back story. A former Labour councillor, he was not recommended for a knighthood when his term as Lord Mayor ended. Allegedly that was Gordon Brown’s revenge because Luder had defended bankers’ bonuses. He has also written movingly about his Jewish grandparents, who ran a sweet shop in east London after arriving early in the 20th century as refugees from Romania, and about the battle his grandmother had to fight when his grandfather was denied re-entry into the UK.

How fortunate she did not run up against some Ukip-style nut-job moaning about trains being stuffed with people talking foreign languages.

Mirror chicken’s comeback

There is a fun precedent for today’s appearance of a Daily Mirror chicken, whose job is to torment David Cameron over his refusal to participate in a televised election debate.

In 1997, the Mirror dispatched a “headless chicken” on a similar mission, only for it to get entangled in a very public confrontation with a Tory press officer, Alex Aiken. Aiken, a former student lover of Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker John Bercow, is now high up in the Civil Service. Just keep him away from the chicken.

Opik, the wilderness years

The former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik has compared his life with that of Nelson Mandela. Opik has tried his hand at many things since 2010, when he achieved the rare feat of losing Montgomeryshire, which had been held by the Liberals or Lib Dems in every election except one since the 1870s. He has tried stand-up comedy, wrestling and reality TV. He tried to be the Lib Dem nominee for London Mayor, to get elected to the party’s national committee, or to be Northumberland’s crime commissioner. All has come to nothing.

“Every major statesman needs the wilderness years. Nelson Mandela had them and I suppose that’s my lot, too,” he has told WalesOnLine. The parallels leap from the page.

Snowden is no Assange

Readers of today’s Daily Mail have been told that the House of Lords heard a “devastating analysis” by the former head of MI5, Lord Evans, of the “harm” that Edward Snowden did by revealing the extent of global surveillance by the US National Security Agency.

Snowden is a quiet, undemonstrative individual who ruined his life to reveal something he believed ought to be publicly known. He is not fleeing from alleged sex offences, like Julian Assange.

Here is what Jonathan Evans had to say: “The revelations made by Edward Snowden have clearly led to a reduction in the ability of the security agencies here and overseas to access and read the communications of terrorists internationally, with the result that as the threat from terrorism has gone up in the past two years, the ability of the security agencies to counter those threats has gone down.” That is no “analysis” – it is an assertion made without any supporting evidence.