Andy McSmith's Diary: Strange bedfellows caught in cabal at Westminster


Click to follow

During a break at the high-level Govern Up conference at Westminster today, which brought together civil servants, politicians and advisers from all of the main political parties, who should be seen standing to one side, engrossed in an intense private conversation, but Ed Miliband’s chief of staff, Tim Livesey, and Johnny Oates, who does the same job for Nick Clegg.

I wonder what they were talking about. Could it by chance have been about how to form a coalition after May’s election?

Give that Ukip man a map

Nigel Farage has so much on his plate that he does not know where Sandwich is. When an edition of Magna Carta that belongs to Sandwich Town Council turned up in the Kent county archives, Farage, who hopes to be the next MP for South Thanet, posted an excited tweet congratulating “Sandwich, in Thanet”. Separately, Ukip sent a letter to Sandwich residents, in Farage’s name, inviting them to a meeting at which “the make-up of Thanet District Council” would be discussed.

But Sandwich is not in Thanet. It comes under Dover District Council. That is the sort of basic error that really annoys residents. “The first thing parliamentary candidates should do is get to know the area they are responsible for,” an enraged member of Sandwich Rotary Club, David Robertson, 81, told the Kent Mercury.

Reckless waste of money

The Ukip MP Mark Reckless has been given a date when old Conservative Party colleagues expect to see him in court. Rochester and Strood Conservative Association is claiming £3,012, plus £185 in court costs, from Reckless and the former Tory agent, Chris Irvine, who both defected to Farage’s party in September. The claim against them is that, two days before they jumped ship, they committed the Tory association to printing campaign literature that had to be thrown away. A court date is set for 12 March.

Writ not so large

The secrecy that surrounds family courts is almost absolute if the courts judge that publicity might be harmful to children or other vulnerable people. When John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, raised a point of order in the Commons today, about something that had been on the agenda for a committee of the European Parliament, he was politely but firmly told by the Speaker, John Bercow, not to say another word. In return for his public silence, he has been promised a private session with Bercow and his advisers, at which tea will be served while they hear what he wants to say.

But in this internet age it is hard to keep a lid on anything. The writ of a British family court does not run in Brussels, and information that Mr Hemming was not allowed to give out in Parliament, and British newspapers are not allowed to publish, is easily accessible on the internet, in the minutes of the relevant committee. By the way, it is not that interesting to anyone not directly involved, so do not ring me asking to hear more.

Cameron misquoted

According to the official record, David Cameron’s reply to a long, discursive question from the longest-serving MP, Sir Peter Tapsell, the Conservative member for Louth and Horncastle, began with the words: “It is difficult to answer the Father of the House without a long, historical exegesis…”

It is a case of Hansard tactfully recording what someone meant rather than what he actually said. Everyone listening clearly heard the Prime Minister say “hysterical”. Long and hysterical are words that aptly describe the entire waste of time that is Prime Minister’s Questions in the dying days of this parliament.