Andy McSmith's Diary: The think-tank accused of a unique disappearing act strikes again

Once the voice of the more civilised wing of the party, the think-tank is now firmly in the Let’s Get Nasty Again tendency
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The Bow Group, one of the oldest Conservative think-tanks, used to be the voice of the more civilised wing of the party, with Lord Howe and Kenneth Clarke among its past luminaries. But these days, under the chairmanship of someone named Ben Harris-Quinney, it is firmly in the Let’s Get Nasty Again tendency.

The group’s latest publication, A Living Wage or a Death for Small Enterprise?, is a prolonged attack on George Osborne’s remark that the national minimum wage should be raised above £7 an hour. Raising the pay of the UK’s lowest-paid workers could cause inflation and destroy unskilled jobs the pamphlet claims, echoing arguments the Tories put up in the 1990s, before the national minimum wage existed.

In the accompanying press release, Mr Harris-Quinney claims: “The proposed above-inflation hike of the national minimum wage is the final piece of proof that affirms what Bow Group members have long asserted: George Osborne and the Government are artificially manipulating the economy for political gains in the run-up to 2015.”

Mr Harris-Quinney’s previous hits include attacking David Cameron for recognising gay marriage, and threatening the Tory publisher Iain Dale with legal action for suggesting that the Bow Group was “disappearing up its own backside”. That case never got to court – a shame, because hearing lawyers arguing over the meaning of that phrase would have been a joy.

Gospel truth from Silvester

There was an aspect of the story of David Silvester, the suspended Ukip councillor from Henley-on-Thames who thinks that David Cameron is to blame for the recent floods, which bemused me at the time. I got the bit about how gay marriage is offensive to the Lord, therefore to punish David Cameron he sends the river waters to wreck the homes of heteros or gays who are guilty of living in the flood plain. But why did the good councillor throw in a mention of the Coronation Oath, I wondered. Speaking to the Henley Standard since his suspension from Ukip, Mr Silvester explained: “The Queen in her Coronation Oath promised to pass only those laws that are consistent with the Christian gospel.” That clears that one up.

Dracula not to blame

Horror returned last week to Whitby, the North Yorkshire fishing port that was once the home of Bram Stoker, and where he imagined Dracula landing. Coastguards rushed to the Black Steps, which lead down to the beach, after a man walking his dog reported the discovery of a severed human finger. However, on examination, it turned out to be a coral known as Alcyonium digitatum, or Dead Man’s Finger, because that is what it looks like. “We would rather search for a thousand hours and find nothing and everything be OK, than not search,” a coastguard told the Whitby Gazette.

Flight of the females

Jessica Lee, the Tory MP for Erewash in Derbyshire, has decided to quit at the next election. Her resignation letter to David Cameron did not give a reason, but we may assume that neither age nor length of service were factors: she is 37, and was first elected in 2010.

Louise Mensch, who walked away and caused a by-election in 2012, and Laura Sandys and Lorraine Fullbrook, who are also pulling out next year, were all first elected in 2010. When Mr Cameron took over the Tory leadership in 2005, one of his declared aims was to see more Tory women elected to the Commons, and their number duly leapt from 17 to 49. With only two new woman candidates in place in Tory-held seats so far, that number is likely to drop.