Andy McSmith's Diary: Was Harriet Harman discriminated against for being useless?


Damian McBride, the former Labour spin doctor sometimes referred to as McPoison, was thought to have gained an inner calm while working for the Catholic charity Cafod, a job he recently left ahead of the appearance of a paperback version of his annoyingly readable memoirs. Today, though, he blew a fuse. What set him off was the news that Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, was implicitly accusing McBride’s old boss, Gordon Brown, of sexism.

Delivering the Speakers Lecture in Parliament, Ms Harman complained: “Imagine my surprise when having won a hard-fought election to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader of the Labour Party, I discovered that I was not to succeed him as Deputy Prime Minister. If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it?”

She also remarked that when the G20 world leaders met in London, she was invited to a dinner for the leaders’ wives.

McBride did not think much of either point. The winner of the 2007 deputy leadership campaign was never going to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister, whoever he or she might be, he claimed, and the dinner was for “Britain’s leading women from all walks of life” of whom Harriet was surely one. The person at Brown’s side during the G20 negotiations was a different woman, Shriti Vadera. “Why?” he wrote. “Because she was the world expert on what needed to happen. With all due respect, Harriet was not.”

And on the general charge of sexism: “Gordon divides the world into only two categories: useless and not useless; that is the only basis on which he judges anyone.”

Love that phrase “with all due respect”.

Sack the photo editor

When the Minister for Skills, the high-flying Tory MP Matthew Hancock, posed in a skate park on the South Bank in central London for a photograph that appeared in Total Politics magazine – publicising the rebranding of London’s so-called “Boris bikes” – neither he nor the photographer noticed the graffiti on the column behind him. But someone from the Buzzfeed website did. In bold letters it said “Sack Cameron”.

The Russians are coming

Patrick O’Flynn, the newly elected Ukip MEP, started a new Twitter account when he left his old job as a columnist for the Daily Express. The old one, meanwhile, has taken on a new life. At its head there is a photograph of a young woman reclining in a very short skirt, beneath is a string of messages in Russian, including one that, when translated, says “Ahahahaha I haven’t a single friend online.”

Poor, sad devushka. Someone should put her in touch with the MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock: he likes Russian women.

Nothing to speak of

Later this week there will be an anniversary that may go uncelebrated. The Baroness Falkender, who was once famous as Harold Wilson’s fiery personal assistant, will have completed 40 years as a Labour member of the House of Lords. When it was announced in 1974 that Marcia Williams, as she then was, was being elevated to the peerage, the furore was such that the Labour MP Dennis Skinner happily forecast that it would hasten the abolition of the House of Lords. But in the ensuing decades, all has gone quiet.

Baroness Falkender occasionally clocks in to claim her £300 daily attendance allowance, but you will not find a Baroness Falkender speech in any back number of Hansard: in 40 years as a legislator she has not uttered a public word in the Lords. No harm done there.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games