Andy McSmith's Diary: Tory’s think-tank attack is not such a bright idea


Ann Leslie, the 73-year-old former Daily Mail columnist, reminds me that six years ago she revealed in her memoirs how she was once ambushed in a bedroom by the film star David Niven. After writing that, she received a reader’s letter – unpublishable until now – from a woman who had suffered a similar experience at the hands of Rolf Harris.

“At least your molester”, her correspondent wrote, “had a bit of class.”

Think-tank blast backfires

The maverick Tory MP Charlie Elphicke is pursuing a campaign against the IPPR, a think-tank with links to the Labour Party. He thinks that Labour MPs should have declared research done by IPPR on the register of interests, and has challenged the think-tank’s status as a registered charity. Complaints have been fired off to the Charities Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

You might think Mr Elphicke’s zeal would please the Tory high command. Actually, he is giving them the jitters because another think-tank, Policy Exchange, founded by Michael Gove, is also a registered charity. Policy Exchange’s former director, Neil O’Brien, moved to the Treasury 19 months ago as George Osborne’s special adviser.

In June 2012, one of David Cameron’s special advisers, Sean Worth, moved from Downing Street to the Policy Exchange. Last year Alex Morton moved in the opposite direction, advising Mr Cameron on housing. The Prime Minister was the main guest at Policy Exchange’s summer party two weeks ago, when he described the hours he spent in summer 2005 listening to its clever Tory wonks talking about how to modernise the Conservative Party and “stole all their ideas” to use in his bid for the Tory leadership.

Mr Elphicke’s campaign against IPPR could do serious collateral damage  to the PM’s favourite policy-wonk house.

Hacked off by rave reviews

The National Theatre’s new play, Great Britain, was given a four-star rating by The Independent’s critic Paul Taylor, and by The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. It was given five stars on the website of the former chief critic of The Times, Libby Purves, who was axed last September. But in The Times it rated only two stars.

What could it be about a play about phone hacking that appeals to every critic except one currently employed by Rupert Murdoch?

Once bitten, twice shy

Biteback, the small political publishing house launched by the former Tory blogger Iain Dale, celebrated its fifth birthday today with Jeffrey Archer, the billionaire publisher Lord Ashcroft, and the former Labour ministers Charles Clarke and Peter Hain.

Biteback’s best-selling author, the notorious former Downing Street spinner Damian McBride, was absent, sadly. So was Stuart Holmes, the elderly protester who placed himself in shot when McBride was doing a piece to camera plugging his book, and was wrestled to the ground by Mr Dale.

I assume Holmes was not invited because Biteback could not find his address, because he does not have an address. He lives rough on London’s streets, where he is safer, generally, than when he is anywhere near Mr Dale.

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