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Andy McSmith's Diary: The honourable member for Riyadh Central

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Daniel Kawczynski, Tory MP for Shrewsbury, has distinctive views on the Middle East, in which he takes a keen interest. He once told the Commons that the best man to unify Libya would be Crown Prince Mohammed el-Senussi, great nephew and heir of King Idris, who was overthrown in 1969. He is also a friend and admirer of President Assad’s cousin Ribal al-Assad, who has lived in London since a family feud forced his blood-soaked father to  leave Syria.

When the left-wing Labour MP Katy Clark started a Commons debate on human rights in Saudi Arabia today, Mr Kawczynski turned up wanting to know what business had she to criticise a country which she has never visited.

He was in Saudi Arabia in February, his expenses paid by the Saudis. He has spoken to the Saudi king, has visited a park full of children wearing English football shirts, and is generally impressed by the social progress being made in the desert kingdom.

“Of course, the Saudis have their own issues,” he conceded. “The fact that they find it impossible to celebrate Christmas is regrettable.”

He added: “It would be ludicrous for me to say that everything in that country is going well, but which country doesn’t have its share of social ills? If the Saudis and the Saudi media were to start looking at this country and evaluating and continuously pondering some of the problems we have as a society, they would find many problems...”

I wonder which of our many problems he thinks the visiting Saudi journalist would find most shocking – the way people of different religions are openly tolerated, the absence of public beheadings, the sight of women driving?

Fowl words from Tory peer

“Is the Minister aware that most chickens in this country were infected with campylobacter because of the way they were executed?” the Tory peer Ian McColl inquired, as peers discussed the problem of food poisoning. “They were electrocuted upside down, so the contents of their alimentary tract were spread over the whole of the chicken.”

To which the Liberal Democrat, Judith Jolly, speaking for the Government in her official capacity as a Baroness of Waiting (no, me neither) replied: “I thank the noble Lord for such a graphic description.”

Has Blair got the Bootle?

The Pope has made Joe Benton, the 80-year-old Labour MP for Bootle, a papal knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great. That is some consolation for having to quit Parliament next year, to head off the risk of deselection.

Despite the Liverpool Echo again naming Euan Blair as one of his potential successors, the ex-Prime Minister’s son has yet to show an interest. If the Bootle Labour Party chooses an outsider rather than the local council leader Peter Dowd, it is more likely to be the former Downing Street adviser and aide to Peter Mandelson, Matthew Doyle. 

Respectful rush for a seat

Meanwhile in South Suffolk, a safe Tory seat where the sitting MP, Tim Yeo, has been deselected, the East Anglian Daily Times is reporting that more than 100 wannabes have applied to be the new Conservative candidate. They say that nobody respects politicians any more: yet so many want to be one.