Andy McSmith's Diary: What next for Danny Alexander's constituents after tax breaks and cheap fuel?

Ourman in Westminster

Two months ago, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was accused of 'pork barrel politics' because of the remarkable way that his Inverness constituency has benefitted from government largesse. In the time of austerity, his seat has received state funding for a tourist railway,  bailout for the London-Scotland sleeper train, tax break for ski lifts and a generous number of exemptions from the so-called 'bedroom tax'. “This is very fishy indeed,” Labour's treasury spokesman Chris Leslie told the Financial Times.

Today, the treasury announced that, subject to EU approval, petrol stations in seven Scottish and three English towns will benefit from a 5p cut in the fuel duty on a litre of petrol because they are in rural areas where there is very ;little by way of public transport, making people dependent on their cars. All seven of the Scottish towns are in areas where the local MP is  Liberal Democrat, and two are in the Badenoch and Strathspey area, in the Inverness constituency of Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Salute to a Lady of refined tastes

Something will be lost on the day when the House of Lords is wound up and replaced with a chamber full of career politicians. For instance, I fear there will never be an elected politician quite like the Countess of Mar, who is - uniquely - a female hereditary peer, whose title dates from 1114, making it the oldest in the UK.

She is a farmer who asks questions about specialist stuff that most of us know nothing about, such as government-funded research into earthworm diversity. Were it not for a question along those lines, tabled by the Countess of Mar, myself I would never have known that there had been a research project with the gripping title “Stress in a hot place: Ecogenomics and phylogeography in a pantropical sentinel inhabiting multi-stressor volcanic soils.” Now I know, I feel that much better.

Perry gives Izzard a dressing down

Asked by Time Out whether he would consider running for Mayor of London, like Eddie Izzard, Grayson Perry's response was: “You can't have two transvestites standing for mayor. Actually, I think Eddie Izzard should have his licence ripped up - he's not a tranny any more. I haven't seen him in a frock for ages.”

Search for subsidies

Brian Binley, a Tory MP, has tried to find out from the government the amount of subsidy that goes into renewable energy, which seems a relevant enough question given the furore around the fast rising price of gas. He has been unable to find out the answer because, as the Tory business minister Michael Fallon told him in writing, “there is no single definition of 'subsidy'.”

That being so, how will the Conservatives abide by the pledge set out in Section 10 of the coalition agreement that they will allow new nuclear power stations to be built “provided that they receive no public subsidy”?

Purple reign for MPs

As a friend was on his way to the Roundhouse, in London's Chalk Farm Road, for a live concert by Deep Purple, a rock group formed so long ago that it would take a geologist to date it accurately, whom should he encounter but the Tory MP John Whittingdale.

Mr Whittingdale, who chairs the Commons Culture committee, which is responsible for the continuing welfare of opera and other high art forms, revealed that Deep Purple is his favourite band. The Tory Mike Weatherley, and the Labour MP, John Robertson were also spotted in the audience.

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