Andy McSmith's Diary: UK in the dock as Republic of the Marshall Islands of presses for disarmament

The islanders contend that the world’s nuclear powers are not fulfilling their obligations to disarm

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Indy Politics

Like being savaged by Tom Thumb, the UK is having to defend itself in an international court against an action brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, whose entire population could easily fit in Wembley Stadium. The republic is also suing India and Pakistan, and would add USA, Russia, China, France, Israel and North Korea, except that those states do not recognise the International Court of Justice.

The islanders contend that the world’s nuclear powers are not fulfilling their obligations to disarm. The USA alone tested 67 nuclear weapons on the atoll between 1946 and 1958. Tony leBrum, the islands’ foreign minister, has a memory of seeing the sky turn red as another small island was vaporised.

On the opening day in court, the UK’s counsel, the Foreign Office’s former legal adviser, Sir Daniel Bethlehem, complained that it was harsh to be on trial without the other signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If the court ruled against the UK, our government might be forced to be “the one hand clapping” as it tried to comply. On 10 March it was India’s turn. The islands will present their case against the UK on 11 March.

Cameron to carry on as MP

Should a retiring Prime Minister get out of the House of Commons, or stay around on the back benches? Tony Blair cut and ran immediately, and has been constantly criticised for everything he has done since. Margaret Thatcher left after a short interval, and lapsed into depression because she did not have enough to do. Gordon Brown stayed but avoided saying anything to embarrass his successor, and was attacked for being inactive. Sir Edward Heath stayed and freely shared his opinions, and so was attacked for his disloyalty. Whatever they do is wrong.

On 10 March, David Cameron put paid to any notion that he might quit Parliament after he quits Downing Street. He told BBC Radio Oxford that it is “very much my intention” to run for re-election as MP for Witney in 2020. He will be only 53 by then, way too young to retire.

Lammy sorry for election calls Labour MP David Lammy must surely set some kind of record by making 35,000 nuisance phone calls in just two days. To be precise, he did not make them personally, nor did he realise he was breaking privacy rules. The recipients were thousands of Labour Party members in London who answered their phones and heard a recorded message urging them to vote for David Lammy to be their candidate in the mayoralty election. Most didn’t. He came fourth with 9.4 per cent of first preference votes. The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, ruled he should not have rung those people without their permission and fined him £5,000. Mr Lammy said: “I fully accept the Information Commissioner’s decision and apologise unreservedly.”

Nice earner is shrinking

The public lending right is one of life’s uncomplicated joys for an author of a published book. Once published, you need only tell the people in Stockton on Tees who administer the scheme, and they will credit you each time your book is borrowed off the shelf of a public library. Last month, the PLR disbursed £6m among 22,000 authors, including the Tory MP turned popular author Nadine Dorries, whose novels were borrowed more than 29,000 times, earning her £2,227.30. This nice earner for authors is shrinking as public libraries disappear. The Department for Culture estimates that 110 were closed in six years to January 2016. I should mention that I have a small financial interest in PLR’s continued existence.