Andy McSmith's Diary: Who needs a rabbit when you can pull Mickey Mouse out of the hat?

Someone in Osborne’s office writes a good gag

George Osborne blew a gasket on 1 March when tackled by Labour’s Seema Malhotra about the Government’s record on housing – 201,000 fewer homeowners, nine out of 10 Britons under 35 on modest incomes unable to afford a home, rising rents, and the bill for housing benefit likely to be £350m more than forecast, etc etc. 

The Chancellor did what all politicians do when faced with a question they cannot answer – he changed the subject. “The fact that the Labour Party is now getting advice from Yanis Varoufakis and the revolutionary Marxist broadcaster Paul Mason does not suggest to me that it has the answer to economic security,” he said. “Presumably Labour chose those two because Chairman Mao was dead and Mickey Mouse was busy.”

Someone in Osborne’s office writes a good gag.

Hung from a stallion

Mason himself announced last week that he is standing down as Economics Editor of Channel 4 News to escape the requirements of impartiality and to take part in Labour’s “New Economics” lecture tour. 

If I were in the audience at one of his lectures, I would be very tempted to ask whether he has actually tried out Tantric Position 103. He is the only author I know of who has set out in print a description of this fascinating act of sexual gymnastics. It involves the man clinging head downwards to the side of a stuffed horse, while the woman clambers on top. 

In Mason’s fast-moving thriller Rare Earth, set in China, the couple engaged in Tantric Position 103 to achieve orgasm while exchanging comments on how cartels rig international markets. I assume the stuffed horse must have been a stallion: otherwise how would the man have clung on? Anyway, it sounds fun.

God’s EU wish angers Ukip

Does God want us to stay in the EU? I do not suppose anyone actually knows, but as Canon Andrew Wilkins was taking the usual prayers at the beginning of a Dudley Council meeting, he hinted that the Almighty might be leaning towards Remain. “Those who advocate leaving will need to be aware of the risks of stoking anti-European sentiment,” he warned. “We need to be aware of the implications of the decision and the debate for those who are most vulnerable.” 

His comments, as reported by the Stourbridge News, have so outraged Bill Etheridge, the Ukip MEP for West Midlands, that he thinks Mr Wilkins should never take prayers at Dudley Council again. But others, including Dudley’s Labour MP Ian Austin, think he is a good egg.

Dressing down for Britain 

The great advantage to be gained from leaving the EU, we are told, is that British politicians and British civil servants will take over matters currently handled by officials in Brussels, and make a better job of them.

In this context, a new report by the Commons Public Accounts committee into the Common Agricultural Policy Delivery Programme (CAPDP) makes instructive reading. The Common Agricultural Policy is the programme under which the EU dispenses subsidies to farmers. CAPDP, launched in 2012, is supposed to supply English farmers with the best digital technology to ensure they receive CAP subsidies. The programme was expected to cost £155m, but has actually cost £215m, and it has “many failures”, which means farmers have lost out.

There are two agencies involved, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which handles the money, and the Government Digital Service (GDS) which runs IT. Their managements were not working in harmony. To quote the report, there was “confrontational behaviour between senior programme staff at the RPA and GDS” because of “cultural differences” such as “people dressing differently and using different methods of reporting” – and because they worked on different floors of the same building.

This is an example of British public servants in action. According to the Leave campaign, we will all be better off if agricultural policy were removed from Brussels to be administered in the British way.

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