Andy McSmith's Diary: The wages of spin are … unreliable, so pitch for the next job


In this country, you can be forgiven if the name John McTernan rings no bells.

The British press never really focused on him during his time as a spin doctor for Harriet Harman and adviser to Tony Blair and others, there being so many other Labour spin doctors cluttering up Westminster. But in Australia, where he is the Political Secretary to the Labour Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, a week seldom goes by without some political hack or other running a John McTernan story, as if the sound of someone spinning in a Scottish accent is as strange to Australian ears as a didgeridoo to ours.

Yesterday’s Herald Sun, a Melbourne tabloid, was very excited about a remark that Mr McTernan made to a radio journalist during what he thought was a private conversation in the chairman’s box at a rugby league match. “You might even want me to do a regular spot on your show next year if we lose the election,” he reportedly said. This is interpreted as hard evidence that even Ms Gillard’s government knows it is heading for the rocks. Alternatively, perhaps, he was joking.

Creative approach gives wisdom to Solomon

About seven years ago, a cargo ship is believed to have delivered machinery that had not been properly cleaned to the Solomon Islands, a former British colony in the South Pacific. In it were some giant African snails which escaped and multiplied and are now causing havoc with the crops.

A theatre company has been enlisted to show the islanders how and why they should do battle with the giant snail. At last, someone has heeded the advice of Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, that in austere times those involved in the creative arts should apply their talents to helping the economy.

Lord James’s straight bat was really a googly

A footnote to the week’s debate on gay marriage. One of its opponents, the Tory peer Lord James of Blackheath, delivered a ringing warning that if gays were allowed to marry there was a “real prospect” of the “marginalisation” of heterosexuals.

He told the House of Lords: “I am particularly unimpressed by the story of the Australian sexual equality board, which received a complaint from the two opening batsmen of the Australian women’s cricket team saying that they had been dropped because they were the only non-lesbians on the team. The board wrote back and said: ‘If you think that this board exists to look after the interest of a couple of straights like you, you have got another think coming.’ That is marginalisation.”

The case that his lordship had in mind concerned not two openers, but one: Denise Annetts, who complained to the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination  board – not the “Australian sexual equality board” – that she had been dropped after encountering hostility from lesbian members. She did not claim to be the “only non-lesbian on the team”.

The board discovered that when the state’s anti-discrimination law was drafted in the 1970s, no one envisaged the possibility of a heterosexual alleging discrimination by homosexuals, and suggested that the rules might have to be changed. Apart from those details, Lord James had the facts at his fingertips. Oh, and by the way, the Annetts case was 19 years ago.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home