Andy McSmith's Diary: When it comes to MP’s allegiances, where there’s smoke, there’s fire


Among the most outspoken opponents of the proposed ban on smoking in cars in the presence of children is the Tory MP Dame Angela Watkinson, who protests that it cannot be enforced. “Are we going to have smoking police weaving in and out of traffic, looking in car windows?” she exclaimed in the Commons.

Dame Angela was not always so set against unenforceable legislation. Fourteen months ago, the Home Affairs select committee produced a report suggesting that the UK’s unenforceable drug laws should be relaxed. The one committee member who stood alone, saying that even to suggest relaxation was to approach a “slippery slope”, was Dame Angela.

When in 2003 the Labour government repealed the notorious Section 28, which banned local councils from “promoting” homosexuality, a law under which no one had been charged or convicted during the 15 years that it had been on the statute books, Dame Angela voted to retain it. Mind you, so did David Cameron.

Dame Angela has declared in the register of interests that last summer she enjoyed £1,260 worth of hospitality at the Chelsea Flower Show, courtesy of Japan Tobacco International.

Errors and emissions

From this week’s edition of The Economist: “In a leader last month we said that The Economist first proposed legalising drugs in 1993. In fact we argued for it in a cover story in 1988. Who says drug use doesn’t damage long-term memory?”

Are MPs working too hard?

MPs will return from next week’s half-term break to find that Portcullis House, the modern annex to the Palace of Westminster, has changed. Currently, there is a Members’ Centre, where MPs and their researchers can work undisturbed, and get help when they are having an IT meltdown. It won’t be there when they come back, because the administration committee has ordered that it is to be converted into a private lounge for MPs and their guests. This proposal was discussed a couple of times by the committee, both times in private, so we do not know what the reasoning for it is. Perhaps they thought that there was too much work and not enough lounging going on.

Express Editor Exposed

Inside today’s Daily Express there was a reasoned piece defending the sums that the UK pays out in foreign aid, on the grounds that it helps combat global warming, a probable cause of the current flooding. This thoughtful piece was penned by one Peter Hill. Can this be the same Peter Hill who edited the Express from 2003 to 2011, during which times it featured such headlines as “Britain’s Foreign Aid Scandal” and “Climate Change Lies are Exposed” – or is it just someone who looks like him?

Boot-iful symmetry

What a shame the football season did not end today. Until they took on Harrow Borough, the Metropolitan Police Football Club had played 27 fixtures in the Ryman Premier League, winning nine, losing nine, and achieving nine draws, making the entry on the tally sheet Met Police 9-9-9. Now they have spoilt that impeccable record.

Pressed for time

It was a big day for political journalists today when they were invited to Downing Street for the PM’s monthly press conference. There is some argument about when the last monthly press conference was. Some say it was June 2013, at the end of the GB summit, but others say that does not count because it was held in Northern Ireland. Some say March 2013, but others say that one did not count, because it was called at short notice to discuss press regulation. There was definitely one in July 2011. A month is a long time when it is the interval between David Cameron’s press conferences.

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