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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Vicky Pryce might have rung the death knell for marital coercion


Vicky Pryce could be the last married woman ever to plead ‘marital coercion’ in a British court, after a hint from a minister that a change in the law is being worked on. There was a mountain of commentary after her trial about why this line of defence, laid down in a 1925 Act of Parliament, is there for a wife, but not for a husband or civil partner. Nor will it be available to either partner in any gay marriage.

The first hint that this situation may not last much longer came from Lord McNally, a Justice Minister. Answering a written question in the Lords, he replied that the government is “looking carefully” to see if that law is “appropriate for modern circumstances.”

Watch this space.

Will the new Alistair Campbell's politeness outlast his namesake's?

After I reported yesterday that there was a new senior press officer in 10 Downing Street with the portentous name Alastair Campbell, the other Alastair Campbell – the one the nation remembers with such affection – has responded, via Twitter: “Nothing wrong with cloning though I hear he is quite polite to journos. So was I once, for a day or two.” Must ask around to see if any political journalists remember those “one or two” days when Ali C was polite.

Tepid praise from high places for the younger Miliband

“He’s doing very well, actually. His only disadvantage is that he doesn’t have the charisma of his brother, David. But he doesn’t upset people.” Denis Healey, the greatest leader the Labour Party never had, now aged 95, delivers his verdict on Ed Miliband, in the current issue of the News Statesman.

Little-heard-of act to end any clerical flirtation with racist parties

There were puzzled looks in the Commons when the Speaker informed MPs that something called the Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure 2013 had received Royal Assent. No one seemed to know what it was. That is because it was handled in the House of Lords, where bishops sit. It may come as a surprise to people to know that until now, a Church of England bishop might discover that one of his priests was a member of a racist party, but would be powerless to do anything about it. No more. After today, a priest can be sacked for belonging to an organisation “that has been declared to be incompatible with the teachings of the church in relation to racial equality”.

Will Lib Dem  go nuclear over another broken promise?

Looking back at page 59 of the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto, one finds a promise to “reject a new generation of nuclear power stations.”

Last week the Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, gave the go ahead for the first new nuclear power station in Britain for a generation, at Hinckley C, in Somerset. Today, he and the Business Secretary Vince Cable and another Lib Dem promised help to enable UK business to compete in the global nuclear energy market.

Time for another ‘sorry’ video?

West End legend joins Boris's defenders

Boris Johnson’s dad, Stanley, is not the only person outraged by the roasting he got on the BBC on Sunday morning from Eddie Mair, standing for Andrew Marr. So is Gillian Lynne, one of the great choreographers for the West End and international stage. At the age of 87, she is to receive a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Oliviers for her work on more than 50 shows, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera – but she is not impressed with the merry dance that Mair led the Mayor.

“I got more and more angry, to hear a man being that vicious and not particularly clever; to send darts against someone and not give them time to answer,” she says.

“I feel that Boris was a gentleman and the other chap wasn’t. Not that it matters a damn, but it wasn’t in the rules of English fair play. It was below the belt and I don’t know what it achieved.”

She is now wishing Andrew Marr a speedy recovery because “I don’t want that man [Eddie Mair] to be doing it again.”