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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Top-table Guido fails to practise what he preached


How strange to see the name of Paul Staines, otherwise known as the blogger Guido Fawkes, on the guest list among the billionaires, oligarchs and Cabinet ministers at the Tories’ fund raising summer party, obtained by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism. The Leveson Inquiry was warned against such fraternisation during one its hearings, three years ago. “Senior politicians, editors and proprietors mix freely, all too easily,” their witness said.

He added that political journalists from the mainstream are particularly prone to being sucked into a system that “encourages a trade in favours,” because “a client media has developed whereby journalists who recycle the party line are encouraged and rewarded with titbits and exclusives, with interviews granted to journalists who please party spin doctors.”

Those observations – as you may have guessed – were from the evidence given by Paul Staines. There is truth in what he said. It is to avoid being sucked into that sort of cycle of mutual indebtedness that most mainstream political journalists would think twice about turning up at a lavish political fund raising dinner.

For a long time Staines has posed as the outsider prising open the cosy world of Westminster. But as he and Mrs Staines tucked into their £400-a-head meal at a table close to David Cameron’s, he could congratulate himself that now he is definitely in with the Tory in crowd.

Look behind you...

“When you look at the Labour party candidates and take out of the mix the fact that they have got son of Blair, son of Straw, son of Prescott, son of Dromey – the red princes….” said David Cameron, at Prime Minister’s Questions, as he laid into how Labour selects its future MPs.

Will Straw, son of Jack, is indeed Labour’s candidate in the marginal Tory seat of Rossendale and Darwen. But what do Euan Blair, David Prescott and Joe Dromey have in common? Answer – they are not Labour candidates anywhere.

If David Cameron is genuinely concerned about parliamentary seats passed through generations of the same family, he could look around at the  benches behind him. There he would see Richard Benyon, Ben Gummer, Nick Hurd, Bernard Jenkin, Francis Maude, Nicholas Soames, Robin Walker and Bill Wiggin – every one a Tory MP, and every one the son of a Tory MP.

By the way, that phrase Cameron used, “red princes”, comes off the Guido Fawkes blog. As well as feasting with Conservatives, Staines is feeding them attack lines.

Green shoots of discipline

The Greens are to hold a disciplinary hearing about Ben Duncan, the Brighton  councillor who tweeted on Armed Forces Day that “hired killers” were on the streets. You might well think that “Greens” and “discipline” are words that never go together. Perhaps they will prove that in this instance, they do.

Silencing of Skinner Part II

A lot of long standing Labour Party members will not be too pleased with their MPs today as they learn that the old left wing firebrand, Dennis Skinner, has been removed from the National Executive, taking out one of the few members prepared to challenge Ed Miliband.

Skinner was first elected to the NEC in 1978, but Neil Kinnock got him out by introducing a rule banning MPs from running in that section of the NEC elections in which the party rank and file can vote. Tony Blair had a soft spot for the old rebel, whereupon in 1999 the MPs dutifully voted Skinner back on. He lost out this time because John Healy, another well liked MP, decided to stand, and he is too proud to stoop to asking anyone to vote for him.