Andy McSmith's Diary: Ukip now has a ‘front bench’ – just don’t try to sit on it


Did you know that Ukip has something called a “front bench”? Well, it has – and over the past two days, Nigel Farage has been conducting what his people grandly call a “reshuffle” to overcome the idea he runs the whole show single-handedly, and to give the party a more modern finish.

Amjad Bashir, the former Ukip business spokesman who was fined for employing illegal immigrants, has been moved: he is now Communitiies spokesman. Godfrey Bloom, who thought that it is a woman’s job to clean behind the fridge, is even further out: a party member still, but no longer an MEP.

Steven Woolfe, who lasted just five months as Ukip’s economic spokesman, during which his best known policy idea was to abolish the state pension, has moved sideways, to be spokesman on immigration and financial affairs. His place in the key job has been taken by the former Daily Express columnist Patrick O’Flynn. Diane James, who performed well as Ukip’s candidate in the Eastleigh by-election, takes over home affairs and justice.

So just when you were thinking that Ukip was led by Nigel Farage and no one else, he is part of a team of 12 men and five women. This is New Ukip.

But what does the term “front bench” mean? Conservative and Labour ministers and shadow ministers are called the “front bench” because that is where they sit when they are in Parliament. But as yet Ukip has no MPs. Its “front-bench”MEPs are not going to get front-row seats in the EU Parliament. It might just as well be called a park bench.

Calm down, dear!

Joan Johnson, who chairs Ukip’s Bolton branch, wanted their Bolton councillor, Paul Richardson, to apologise for posting the following message on Facebook after last week’s Government reshuffle: “Cameron promotes more women to the Cabinet. Well, they can take it in turns to make the tea. Only joking!” That is evidently not going to happen. Ukip’s deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, told The Bolton News: “I’m not going to say Joan has overreacted – I just think people need to take a joke.”

Better the devil you know

A 70-year-old Conservative councillor from Stroud, Elizabeth Peters, has agreed to go on a racial awareness course that will cost her £150 after repeating a turn of phrase that was in common use when she was young. She does, however, feel a bit hard done by, because there are things people say these days that she does not like, such as the expression “the devil’s in the detail”. No one who says that is made to go on a £150 eternal damnation awareness course. Times have changed.

Finally facing our Waterloo?

The job of restoring some old murals in the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords is proceeding so slowly that it is not certain whether the depiction of the Battle of Waterloo will have been restored by the time the 200th anniversary of that victory comes around next year. But now that these faded art works are coming back into view, Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, has spotted that all the battle scenes depict the British fighting the French. This, he suggested, “seems a little mean because we have fought most nations in the world”. He wants Parliament to commission a new mural representing a more recent conflict. Nothing too modern – this is the House of Lords we are talking about here: he suggested the Battle of Jutland, or Amiens, both of which were almost a century ago.

Order of Business

The House of Commons has begun the long summer break, and so this Diary will take a break, too. Back in the autumn.

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