Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: What’s in a name? Well, only about 4,400 miles...


You have to feel some sympathy for Chuka Umunna. Normally so calm and so sharp, he is being talked up as one of the Labour shadow cabinet’s star performers – and then he goes and mangles a word one day, and everyone is laughing at him.

It used to be the case that the centrepiece of Labour’s election was to win the heart and mind of “Worcester woman”. Today, on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, Chuka could not quite get his tongue around the city’s name, and called it something that sounded very like Wichita.

“Of course he knows how to say Worcester,” a Labour spinner said afterwards. “It was the first place he visited as shadow business secretary.”

Anyway, just in case there is any lingering confusion: Worcester is a town in Kansas with just under 390,000 inhabitants that lies along the old Chisholm Trail used by cowboys in the 19th century as they drove their herds from Texas to the slaughterhouses in Chicago. Wyatt Earp served as a law officer there in the 1870s.

Wichita is a beautiful English cathedral city on the River Severn, population about 100,000, which was founded by the Romans and was the scene of a crushing defeat for Charles II during the English civil war in 1651.

Er, I think that’s right...

Hillary signs some muscle

The big event in central London today was Hillary Clinton’s appearance for a book signing at Waterstones. It was the same branch of that chain at which, three years ago, Tony Blair was due to sign copies of his autobiography. That event was called off at short notice to avert the risk of a hostile demonstration.

Clinton’s security people were consequently taking no chances, as Stephen Fry noted, and tweeted grumpily: “I’m sure Hillary Clinton is charm itself, but her private security people in Jermyn Street just now were rude, physical, pushy, sullen and vile. Yes, I know security people are supposed to be stern, but for a book-signing a smile or two along with professionalism would have gone a long way.”

Something doesn’t add up

George Osborne, the man in charge of the nation’s finances, may be proud of the maths A-level he attained at school, but when a seven-year-old boy, Samuel Raddings, asked him during a live session on Sky TV what 8x7 is, he suffered a public loss of nerve and refused to answer.

Osborne has been around a long time, and probably remembered the ghastly experience of Labour’s schools minister, Stephen Byers, who was asked that very question on Radio Five in January 1998, and answered “54”.

A heavy loss to politics

Sad to see that Mike Weatherley, the heavy metal-loving Tory MP for Hove, has decided to quit at the next election.

Years ago, he pledged that if elected, he would be the first MP to wear an Iron Maiden T-shirt in the chamber, but the Speaker, John Bercow, forbade it. If he had waited for Speaker Bercow to retire, perhaps a new Speaker would have been more amenable. As it is, Mr Weatherley’s political record will be forever stained by that broken promise.

At least one Rooney scored

Congratulations to the appropriately named Sean Rooney, a Border Force officer, whose suspicions were roused by a package marked “glassware” arriving at Heathrow from Hong Kong earlier this month.

In it, he found more than 400 fake England football shirts, potentially worth more than £20,000 to the criminals behind the scam.

They have since been destroyed.