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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Wanted - someone indiscreet to dish dirt on Murdochs


Where’s Sally Bercow when you need her?” a journalist from Private Eye tweeted as social media went into rumour overdrive about why Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng, are separating.

The BBC’s Robert Peston gave it rocket fuel when he tweeted: “Am also told that undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping – & hate myself for wanting to know what they are.”

The Speaker’s wife has taken herself off Twitter after a defamatory tweet landed her with a six-figure legal bill, but all morning Twitter-watchers were hoping someone else would “do a Sally Bercow” and reveal the secret behind what could be one of the most expensive divorce cases in history.

We still do not know what the jaw-dropping “undisclosed reasons” are, but The Hollywood Reporter has reported what they are not, by ringing up the office of Tony Blair, who knows both the Murdochs well. “If you are asking if [Deng and Blair] are having an affair, the answer is no,” a spokesperson replied, in what appears to have been a cross voice.


An old Tory leader-in-waiting scratches a new one’s back

“Is Michael Gove a potential future leader of the Conservatives?” Andrew Neil asked Michael Portillo on BBC’s This Week programme. “Of course,” Portillo replied. There was a time in the mid-1990s when an army of youngish Tories believed that Portillo was their future leader. None was more articulate than his young, admiring biographer – the Times journalist Michael Gove.

That rare bulldog breed, a former Tory MP from Scotland

A list of politicians’ nicknames was recently published in The House magazine. None of those named took offence, but typically – from a profession stuffed with people who hate not being noticed – the compiler, Jessica Bowie, has received a letter from someone she left off.

He is Sir Albert McQuarrie, who was a Scottish MP in the long-dead days when the Scots elected Tories. At the age of 95, he claims to be the fourth-oldest living ex-MP and the oldest ex-Conservative, and that his nickname was the “Buchan Bulldog”.

Trading with the enemy: Syrian conflict dents UK exports

An entry in Hansard gives some statistics relating to the Syrian conflict. They are a long way from being the most important facts about it, but it is illuminating to know that in 2009, UK exports to Syria were worth more than £147m. In 2012, they were down to £26.4m. Even that figure seems high.