Andy McSmith's Diary: That’s the way to do it - Ed Miliband left punch-drunk by PM’s union taunts

Our man in Westminster

“We need to change, and we will change, the way we behave. I’m fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name calling, backbiting, point scoring, finger pointing,” David Cameron declared in his first speech as the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, in December 2005.

How things have changed. Today Prime Minister’s Questions was a veritable pit of point scoring and finger pointing, with the Prime Minister leading the way.

The Conservatives have hit on the issue of Ed Miliband’s heavy dependence on trade union funds, and the allegations of vote fixing in Falkirk, where the Unite union has been trying to secure a safe Commons seat for Karie Murphy, a former union official and friend of Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary.

During the half-hour of questions, David Cameron mentioned Len McCluskey by name five times, and Unite 10 times. Ed Miliband challenged him about class sizes; Cameron  retorted that “his questions are written by Len McCluskey of Unite”. Gemma Doyle, whose husband, Gregor Poynton, has been in direct conflict with Unite in Falkirk, asked about the work programme; Cameron mentioned Unite three times in response. And so it went on.

Almost the only Labour MP not to have Unite hurled at him was Geoffrey Robinson, who mentioned the Royal Bank of Scotland. Cameron replied that Robinson “has great experience of lending money…”.

That might sound like a compliment but actually it referred to the secret loan that Robinson made over to Peter Mandelson, which caused both to resign from the government, nearly 15 years ago. While the Tories laughed at this acid wit, Robinson looked bewildered. It was so noisy that he could not hear what Cameron said, and did not know why they were laughing.

The occasion was catastrophically humiliating for Ed Miliband, who is vulnerable to the accusation that he is in the grip of the big unions.

As if having to sit through all that was not bad enough, it transpired that the notes that his staff had prepared before the performance started had been left in a toilet in the division lobby in the House of Commons, where someone picked them up and passed them to the Tories, who happily distributed copies around the building.

One of the revelations they contained was that Miliband was anticipating being attacked over the role of his campaign chief, Tom Watson, who employs Karie Murphy in his office. “I’ll take Tom Watson over Andy Coulson any day,” he was going to reply.

That was today in the Mother of Parliaments.

Gillard takes being deposed on the chin

Julia Gillard, the daughter of Welsh nurses who rose to be Australia’s first woman prime minister, is reported to have taken her abrupt dismissal by her own party’s MPs with some dignity. She has not uttered a disloyal word about Kevin Rudd, the Labor party leader whom she deposed in 2010, who has now deposed her back.

On the night she lost her job, the Australian press is now reporting, she turned up casually dressed, wine in hand, to tell the 100 or so people who had assembled at the Prime Minister’s residence: “Don’t let this disillusion you – shit happens.”

She is back at home in Altona, a suburb of Melbourne, with Tim Mathieson, who was the subject of one of the extraordinary moments in her premiership.

Interviewed last month on Perth radio by a DJ named Howard Sattler, she was asked whether Mathieson was gay, because he is a hairdresser.

“But you hear it: he must be gay, he’s a hairdresser; it’s not me saying it,” Sattler persisted. Sattler and Gillard now have something in common: they are both out of a job.

John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former adviser who went Down Under to be Gillard’s political secretary, is also no longer employed, though he is planning to reinvent himself as a journalist. And, of course, he has more time to relax.

“Got my iPod on shuffle songs and the playlist is exactly the same as the last time it was on shuffle,” was one of many tweets he posted.

Women leading the way in Edgbaston

Congratulations to the good people of Birmingham Edgbaston, who have achieved a rare milestone this week of 60 unbroken years of being represented in Parliament by a woman.

First it was Edith Pitt, a Conservative, who won a by-election in July 1953, after her predecessor moved to the Lords. From 1966 to 1997 it was Jill Knight, a redoubtable reactionary now in the Lords, hoping to be the first woman to chalk up 50 years’ membership of the two Houses of Parliament. In 1997, Labour’s Gisela Stuart became Edgbaston’s first non-Tory MP since 1898. She is organising a charity fundraiser to mark the 60 years.

MP’s pay freeze is open-and-shut case 

Stephen Phillips, Tory MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, is among those who have spoken up against receiving a pay rise. “This is not the time for any substantial increase. That could only happen as and when the economy is fully recovered,” he told the Lincolnshire Echo.

Mr Phillips is a QC and part-time judge. In the Register of Members’ Interests, he declares payments totalling £717,698.37 for legal work carried out between October 2010 and January 2013. In 2012-13, he also claimed £19,294.65 in office costs and travel expenses. His wife, Fiona, is also a barrister. So you can see how Mr Phillips might manage without a “substantial” increase in his £66,396 MP’s annual salary.

Mandelson gets a high-speed retort

Lord Mandelson’s pronouncement in the Financial Times that he now thinks the Government should abandon the proposed high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham did not impress the Liberal Democrat Transport minister Norman Baker, who said: “Thankfully, since Blair and Brown are gone the country no longer has to do whatever Peter Mandelson says.”

twitter.com/andymcsmith; independent.co.uk/mcsmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions