Donald Macintyre's Sketch: It’s fantastic to blow your own trumpet

Humphrey Lyttelton can play wind instruments, but will he be helpful as chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee?

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Indy Politics

A star is born! Could Jesse Norman now become the most famous old Etonian jazz trumpeter since Humphrey Lyttelton? So highly regarded is the Tory by MPs (including, it’s fair to say, J.Norman) that he was easily elected as chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

His pitch to fellow MPs had included a picture of him playing the trumpet, while emphasising other aspects of his Renaissance Man status: biographer of Edmund Burke, a director of the Hay Festival, a trustee of the performing arts space, the Roundhouse, and – possibly the clincher – “season ticket holder at Hereford FC”.

Will he be helpful to the Government? He presumably garnered plenty of Labour support, having rebelled on Lords reform, which in turn saved them from the dreaded boundary review. But it may also have crossed his mind that the job  propelled John Whittingdale into the Cabinet.

Other candidates assembled to hear the Speaker read out the results of the secret ballot looked more nervous. Tridentophile Tory Julian Lewis, clearly already confident of becoming Defence Committee chair, could not stop grinning.

But Crispin Blunt, likely to be a more robust Foreign Affairs chairman than his ultra-loyalist predecessor Sir Richard Ottaway, seemed to be trembling as he waited. And Labour’s Barry Sheerman looked seriously crestfallen after losing out to his boringly mainstream colleague Ian Mearns for the Backbench Business Committee job. As well he might: Mearns was the choice of the Labour whips who aren’t supposed to use their influence but probably wanted the committee put to partisan use. Which is not what it’s for.

Earlier, Liz Truss, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State, had taken questions. One thing to be said for Truss is her relentless enthusiasm. Her trademark adjective – she used it seven times – is “fantastic”, as in (no kidding) “I am a huge fan of internal drainage boards. We have some fantastic drainage boards in Norfolk”. 

And another is her directness. Asked by Maria Eagle, her shadow counterpart, whether, after the great papal encyclical, she agreed with her predecessor, Owen Paterson, “a well-known climate change denier, or does she agree with the Pope?” Truss said crisply: “I agree with the Pope.”

She will soon be appearing before the Defra Select Committee, newly chaired by fellow Tory Neil Parish. She has doubtless already sent him a brief congratulatory note: “Dear Neil, Fantastic!”

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