Andy McSmith's Diary: United they stand... not to mention stepping on toes


The original purpose for which the trade unions created the Labour Party was to get working-class representatives into Parliament. The old engineering union, the AUEW, which has now been absorbed in Unite, had a particularly strong record for taking members off the factory floor, training them up and getting them into Parliament.

With that pre-history, it might seem uncontroversial – laudable, even – that Unite has been recruiting party members with a view to getting Unite members into Parliament, if they had been more subtle. In some cases, at least, Unite members have had letters telling them bluntly that the union will pay their party subscriptions, and asking that in return they back Unite’s nominees selected as parliamentary candidates.

In Falkirk, where the sitting MP Eric Joyce was barred from running again as a Labour candidate after swinging his fists in a Commons bar, Unite has recruited 100 people to the local party, swelling its membership by 50 per cent, with a view to securing the seat for a Unite activist, Karie Murphy, who works for the Labour MP Tom Watson, above. That campaign seems to have crashed, however, because the Herald reported at the weekend that Murphy had pulled out of the contest.

Her decision coincided with a stern warning from Peter Mandelson, condemning the unions’ “disgraceful” interference in candidate selection. Tom Watson found that a strange outburst, because he can remember a time when it was much easier for union officials to handpick parliamentary candidates. Twenty years ago, the GMB boss in the north east, Tom Burlison, effectively chose who was going to be the next Labour MP for Hartlepool. He chose Peter Mandelson.

Pain means no gain for Farage

Last week’s local election results have increased the likelihood that Ukip will win a seat in the Commons in 2015. But where? The map of the results suggest Boston and Skegness, where Ukip has now won seats both on the district council and Lincolnshire County Council. The incumbent Tory MP, Mark Simmonds, claimed in a BBC interview over the weekend that he would be “delighted” if Farage were to challenge him, because of the national publicity he would generate.

However, he is unlikely to get his way, because the local Ukip leader in Lincolnshire, Chris Pain, reputedly one of comparatively few Ukip members capable of telling Farage where to get off, has said: “I stood at the last election against Mark Simmonds and I will be standing at the next one, unless I’m assassinated between now and then.” It sounds as if Farage will have to seek a seat somewhere else.

Evans learns to listen after talking tough

Nigel Evans, the deputy speaker, below, talked a brave talk after the news broke that he had been accused of sexual offences against young men, insisting that he did not intend to let the allegations interrupt his work schedule. Things have not quite worked out like that. He has now conceded that he will not chair any parliamentary debates while the police investigation continues. Someone appears to have had a word in his ear.

Gillard’s army in  battle to the death

Australia’s Welsh-born Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has a tough budget and tough election ahead. To stiffen morale, her political secretary, John McTernan – who learnt his trade working for Tony Blair in Downing Street – called a motivational session for Labor spin doctors in Canberra’s Parliament building, at which he screened the opening scene from the 1970 Hollywood blockbuster, Patton.

“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country,” they heard George C. Scott, the actor in the title role, declare. “You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” It makes you wonder what kind of campaign McTernan is planning.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot