Andy McSmith's Diary: Who's staying and who's going - does anyone know?


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Indy Politics

Some people are having problems keeping track of which MPs are standing down this week, and which are fighting on.

David Cameron replied to a question from the Labour MP Michael Connarty in the Commons by launching into a tribute because the briefing supplied by Downing Street said that Connarty was standing down. “This is my 146th appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions, and they normally get these things right,” Cameron said.

The BBC’s Andrew Marr likewise blamed his producer when he introduced Ken Clarke on his Sunday morning show as someone who was about to quit Parliament, which he is not. That was a few weeks ago. This week, the BBC did it again. This time it was Radio 4 who “retired” him, and had to apologise.

The Guardian’s pollster, Deborah Mattinson, promised readers this week that they will be analysing polling data from crucial contests including “Lib Dem Jeremy Browne’s fight for his political life in Taunton Deane”. Unlike Clarke or Connarty, Browne is standing down.

The incomparable Clarkson

Among the avalanche of social media comments about Jeremy Clarkson, there were several who compared his treatment with that of John Prescott, who punched a man during the 2001 general election campaign, but stayed on as Deputy Prime Minister.

In defence of Prescott, he was in a crowded street when he was hit on the back of the head by a flying egg, which startled him, and he lashed out. He did not give out any verbal abuse. As he pointed out on Twitter: “I was attacked by a man with food. Didn’t attack a man for not getting food.”

Misplaced modesty

Honor Blackman, at 89 the oldest living former heroine of the Bond movies – she was Pussy Galore in Goldfinger 50 years ago, was asked by Saga Magazine, with reference to her lifelong support for the Liberal and Lib Dem parties, whether she had ever been tempted to stand for Parliament. “I’ve been asked many times, but I’m not smart enough.” If she thinks the average Lib Dem candidate is half as smart as she was, in either sense of the word, she is seriously misinformed.

Mail’s loss is Cameron’s gain

News that Simon Heffer  has quit the Daily Mail is a gain for David Cameron, because it means that the thoughts of one of the nation’s most anti-Cameron right-wing columnists will reach fewer readers.

Heffer was not the Mail’s only Cameron-hater. There is also Tony Gallagher, former editor of The Daily Telegraph, who had a public spat with Cameron’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, during the expenses furore. But their shared contempt for Cameron did not make soulmates out of Gallagher and Heffer. In fact, four years ago, Heffer was sacked as a columnist from The Daily Telegraph, by Gallagher.

Is Whitehall listening?

As the politicians look for ways to cut the deficit, there is helpful advice from the Argentinian Ambassador, Alicia Castro. She says that the £280m addition to the defence budget for the Falkland Islands, announced this week, is quite unnecessary, because Argentina is no longer governed by the “genocidal dictatorship” that launched a military invasion of the islands nearly 33 years ago, and its present government is only interested in a peaceful outcome to the argument about whose islands they are.

“These funds should instead be used for the benefit of the British people: to tackle unemployment, improve education and healthcare, and broaden social inclusion,” she suggests. But I do not suppose anyone in Whitehall is listening.