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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Tories’ Essex man is a gift to Ukip


On an exceptionally good day for Ukip, one of their most extraordinary results was in Essex, where they had no county council seats until today but now have nine. The Tories lost 19 seats. There was a local issue at work here, a leading Essex Tory tells me: the “Hanningfield factor”. Lord Hanningfield is well known in Essex as the former council leader jailed for fiddling his Lords expenses.

There is no suggestion that he also fiddled his council expenses, but when details emerged of how much he had claimed, eyes widened in surprise. Then came the news, first revealed in this column, that he had trousered at least £21,000 in attendance allowances by returning brass-necked to the House of Lords after serving his jail sentence. All of this, I am told, was thrown in the faces of Tory canvassers as they tramped around the county.

Ha ha, Witney’s whose town?

Labour’s results might not have been brilliant – but one thing that made them chortle was Laura Price’s success in being elected as Oxfordshire County Councillor for Witney, where the local MP is a certain David Cameron. She beat the Ukip candidate by 10 votes, leaving the Tory incumbent, David Harvey, trailing in third place. Ex-councillor Harvey grumpily told the Bicester Advertiser: “This is national politics being played at a local level.”

Hacked off in Macedonia

Away from the UK elections, in the tiny republic of Macedonia, one of the poorest places in Europe, the British embassy is promoting self-regulation of the press. There was a presentation at a journalists’ conference earlier this week, at which the British ambassador, Christopher Yvon, said: “Self-regulation can be a successful model for the work of the press and, if achieved responsibly, can increase public confidence in the media’s capability to perform its role in society.” He had not better repeat that when in London, or Hacked Off will have him drummed out of town.

High stakes for the Sultan

In the week that Downing Street laid out the red carpet for the President of the United Arab Emirates, one of that country’s leading citizens has landed an honour that some might think more interesting even than a photo call with David Cameron. Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki, an Abu Dhabi business leader, has been appointed Life President of the Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby, the seaside town in North Yorkshire where Stoker is reputed to have had the idea for Dracula.