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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: You heard it from the horse’s mouth - Ukip can’t change a thing in Europe


Ukip is expected to get its best result ever in May’s elections to the European Parliament, chasing Labour for first place. But those who vote for them ought to know that their success will not make a blind bit of difference, because “they can’t change a thing”.

Don’t take my word for it. I defer in this to Nigel Farage, who knows better than anyone how much his party has not accomplished in Europe. I have a transcript of what he said to a meeting of the Taxpayers’ Alliance this month. “We’re whistling in the wind if we think we can implement a Eurosceptic agenda from within the European Parliament,” he told them bluntly. “We cannot change a thing in Brussels.”

Asked by the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg whether Ukip might do a deal with like-minded parties to block EU legislation, Mr Farage replied: “To get a blocking minority, we’d need to have a third of the MEPs in that parliament… Are we going to get 33 per cent of MEPs? I don’t think we are.”

So, vote for them if you must, but do not expect anything to come of it.

The battle for laughs

Frances D’Souza, who holds the title of Lord Speaker – despite being, obviously, a lady – drew Angela Merkel’s attention to the enormous painting of a battle scene that adorns the room where foreign leaders address the Houses of Parliament.

It depicted, she remarked, “von Blucher and his Prussians coming to assist – some would say save – the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo.” This evoked memories of an old myth passed down by lobby journalists that when François Mitterrand appeared alongside Margaret Thatcher in that same room, in October 1984, the painting was covered up, to avoid embarrassment. Actually, it was on display, and a journalist asked the French President if it offended him. He just laughed.

Something about Mary

There is a lady named Mary Johnston who does not appear to have fully mastered the internet. As she tried to look up places to go in Glasgow, she naturally turned to the popular reviews website TripAdvisor.

But in her attempts to register as a user on the site, she appears to have accidentally posted herself as a Glasgow attraction, and is now ranked at number 87 out of 163 attractions.

Other users of the site are asked: “Have you been to Mary Johnston? Share your experience.”

Fourth time lucky?

Insofar as Baron (Jonathan) Hill of Oareford can be said to be famous at all, it is for being the minister who couldn’t resign. During a government reshuffle in July 2012, every minister in Michael Gove’s team at the Department for Education was either sacked or moved, except for the inconspicuous Lord Hill.

It was reported that he wanted to resign, even securing “face time” with David Cameron to tell him personally, but the Prime Minister was too distracted to take in what he was saying, and told him to carry on. Thus he remained a minister.

The House magazine put that old story to Hill, who is now leader of the House of Lords and a cabinet minister. “It isn’t true,”  he said.

About 150 words further into a largely irrelevant answer, he elaborated: “The Prime Minister behaved, as you would expect, totally properly. We had a totally polite and courteous conversation where I said ‘Is there something else you want me to do? Would you like to have this job  for someone else? What do you want me to do?’ And he said would I carry on,  which I did.”

That sounds to me as if he offered to resign not once, but three times.

It’s all downhill from here

“Do you feel left out of the ski trip in the French Alps that Vince Cable and Lord Oakeshott attended? Is it because you’re rubbish at skiing or because they’re planning to get rid of you?” asked a listener to Nick Clegg’s half-hour slot on LBC’s Nick Ferrari Show.

He denied being rubbish at skiing.

As to whether they were plotting a coup, he replied: “I doubt it, I very much doubt it.”

Such trusting innocence.