Andy McSmith's Diary: There’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever Thatcher


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In the week when the UK’s continued existence is in question, some right-wing politicians in Madrid have ceremonially named a square Plaza de Margaret Thatcher, in honour of the Prime Minister who gave Scotland the poll tax.

Three die-hard Thatcherites, Lord Tebbit, John Redwood and Sir Gerald Howarth, and the president of Conservatives Abroad, Ben Harris-Quinney, are calling for Britain to follow the Spanish example. Great idea, boys, and such faultless timing. All we need now is for David Cameron to pledge that if Scotland votes No, George Square in Glasgow will be re-christened as Margaret Thatcher Square. That ought to swing a vote or two.

Vote-winners… and losers

Piers Morgan has tried to save the Union by vowing to go back to the US if Scotland votes No. Meanwhile, the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson has threatened to take US citizenship if Scotland votes Yes. You win one, you lose one.

Sexy time with Blairat

A book you will want to buy the minute it hits the shelves is catchily titled Kazakhstan Trend: From Totalitarianism to Democratic and Rule-of-Law State. This is not a pastiche by Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen but a genuine and serious project. In the UK, attention will focus on a contribution giving a British take on the Kazakh constitution, written by that country’s “consultant for economic reforms”, Tony Blair.

The Sun never sets on Page 3

Since Rupert Murdoch wondered aloud on Twitter last week whether The Sun’s Page 3 pictures were “old-fashioned”, a lot of people have jumped in to agree. The latest is Debee Ashby, who was 16 when, in the 1980s, she was expelled from her public school after she appeared topless in The Sun, for a £70 fee. Now 46, she tells the Birmingham Mail: “[He is] right, it’s a bit dated now. When I was on Page 3, you got invited to all the A-list parties.”The point that seems to have been widely missed is that Murdoch was not being serious. If he was, Page 3 would have vanished, whereas it carries on, day after day. Today, to be precise, it was given over to coverage of the murder of David Haines, but pervy old men who like gawping at breasts needed only to turn to Page 7, where there was a 21-year-old on display.

Mulholland’s fall

A disturbing number of MPs perform in rock or folk groups, as if out to prove the maxim that politics is showbiz for the ugly. Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, is one: he will be appearing next week in a five-piece acoustic folk band called Summercross, as part of a campaign to end pub closures. When Mr Mulholland was young, he played in band called Evil Mary’s Bandwagon. Now, being a Liberal Democrat, he is in the Evil Tories’ Bandwagon, of course.

Hacking hatchet job

There is a magisterial rebuke to all newspapers except The Guardian in Nick Davies’s book about the phone-hacking scandal, Hack Attack. On page 189, he tells the story of Matt Driscoll, a former sports reporter, who was awarded nearly £800,000 by an employment tribunal for bullying suffered at the hands of the News of the World editor, Andy Coulson. The Guardian reported this case on 23 November 2009, whereas, Davies points out, “not one other national newspaper carried a single word about it”. A detail he omits is that The Guardian was as remiss as the rest of us in foreseeing the significance of this hearing. It was all credit to Steve Turner, who runs the British Association of Journalists, who commissioned a freelancer, Paul Donovan, to cover it. Donovan sent his report to The Guardian, which published it under two staff journalists’ bylines.