Andy McSmith's Diary: The Tories' missing reports on 'weaponising' mass distraction


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Indy Politics

David Cameron is right on one point: no one seriously doubts that Ed Miliband dropped a comment in the hearing of BBC executives about “weaponising” the NHS. The PM says it was a “disgusting” thing to say.

But where could Ed Miliband have picked up that ugly word “weaponise”? Has he perhaps been studying the way the Tories analysed their own failure to win the 2010 election? Janan Ganesh’s biography of George Osborne describes the future Chancellor’s frustration at the way fellow Tories fought the campaign: “He wondered aloud why other frontbenchers were less diligent at ‘weaponising’ policy.”

The sentiment was echoed by the editor of the ConservativeHome website, Tim Montgomerie, in July 2010. He condemned party campaign managers for “a failure to weaponise or retail-ise policies”. On 28 May 2013, Isobel Hardman, of The Spectator, noted that “Osborne’s love of ‘weaponising’ policy can irritate his colleagues at times”. In The Daily Telegraph on 20 February 2014, she mentioned “the Chancellor’s desire to ‘weaponise’ welfare policy”.

This is horrible. Weapon is a noun. It is not a verb. Leaving bad politics aside, it’s an abuse of language.

PM’s praise like kiss of death

Political journalists do not generally like having praise heaped on them in public by politicians. It suggests too cosy a relationship.

So one can only imagine what the BBC’s Nick Robinson – the source of the information that Ed Miliband used the word “weaponise” – must have gone through, at home, feeling ill, as he watched PMQs and heard David Cameron describe him as “one of the most respected political journalists in Britain” and, seconds later, as “one of the most respected journalists in our country”.

I can only wish him a speedy recovery from his illness – and from this excruciating endorsement.

Official: ‘Sun’ not very bright

It was big of The Sun to fess up to a mistake. This is from its Corrections and Clarifications column today: “In Monday’s paper we described the new Greek government as the “Halloumi Left”. We are happy to clarify that halloumi cheese comes from Cyprus, and not from mainland Greece.”

Fatuous comment of the day

After the survivors of Auschwitz reassembled, possibly for the last time, on the 70th anniversary of their liberation, it fell to the former Plaid Cymru leader Lord Wigley to make the day’s most fatuous Auschwitz comparison.

Asked on the BBC what it would do for employment if the Faslane Trident naval base were moved from Scotland to Wales, he replied: “No doubt there were many jobs provided in Auschwitz and places like that, but that didn’t justify their existence.”

He has since apologised.

Memories are made of this

Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, winner of the 2015 Costa Prize, has been described as three books in one. One theme is bereavement. She trained a goshawk as a kind of therapy when her father’s sudden death drove her to the edge of a breakdown. I had read almost the entire book without realising who her father was.

Alasdair Macdonald was a much respected press photographer. He spent most of his career with the Daily Mirror, though he was working for the Evening Standard on 20 March 2007 when he was sent to look for storm damage and photograph it. As he did so, he was struck down, at the age of 67, by a heart attack.

The next day was Budget Day, when photographers and hacks gather in Downing Street to see the Chancellor come out – and the media stood for a minute’s silence in Alasdair’s memory.