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UK Politics

Village People: 06/02/2010

Jumpy Brown blots the copybook

*One of the many old-fashioned touches about the House of Commons is the row of three Commons clerks who are always there during Prime Minister's Questions, seated in wigs and gowns in front of the Speaker.

On the table in front of them, there are inkwells. Could this be the last workplace in Britain with inkwells? But I hear that the clerks have been fighting one another recently to avoid having to sit on the right, nearest to Gordon Brown. When the Prime Minister is agitated, he has a way of slamming his documents on to the table, making the inkwells jump, spraying little spots of ink on to the shirt of the nearest clerk. Messy.

Environmentally unfriendly ambush

*Speaking of old fashioned, Tim Yeo, the long-serving Tory MP for South Suffolk, below, walked into the Newsnight studio on Thursday night looking relaxed, because he was one of the MPs whose expenses had been waved through by Sir Thomas Legg that day. Within minutes he was red with anger, berating the BBC and demanding an apology, because he had suffered what he saw as an ambush by his fellow guest, Paul Staines, who blogs as Guido Fawkes.

Mr Staines went on the attack, not over Legg, but over a different document published the same day, showing which MPs had booked Parliament's private dining rooms and for whom. Mr Yeo had booked a room for an evening event for the Environmental Investment Network, while in another Commons document, he had declared that he is chairman of a company called AFC Energy.

Mr Staines saw an interesting coincidence in the fact that AFC Energy was raising £2m from environment investors around the time when Mr Yeo was mingling with investors in the Commons. Mr Yeo adamantly denied ever using the Commons facilities for private gain. What was striking about the confrontation was that he appeared to be so taken aback that the matter should have been raised at all. He need not have been. Mr Staines had announced on his blog hours earlier that he was having "great fun trawling the function room bookings", so it was not difficult to foresee what his line of attack was going to be. Somebody should warn Mr Yeo to watch the blogs more carefully.

The love that dare not speak its name

*Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary was a study in inscrutability when he accepted an invitation from Leeds United to watch their FA Cup match against Tottenham this week, which Leeds lost 3-1. Mr Benn would probably not want voters in his Leeds Central constituency to know it, but he is a lifelong Spurs fan. As a boy, he filled his bedroom with the club's paraphernalia. "I was trying not to cheer when Spurs scored," he told staff later.

Even if you win, you lose

*Clever people do not always make good politicians. Sion Simon, below, who recites poetry from memory, announced this week he is ending his none-too-happy eight-year stint as Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, creating a possible opening for Jack Dromey, AKA Mr Harriet Harman.

Mr Simon's next ambition? To be mayor of Birmingham. That is interesting, as there is no such job. Almost everyone of influence on the city's council is set against it. But last year David Cameron promised a Tory government will hold referendums on the matter in Birmingham and 11 other cities. If they vote 'yes', the new mayors will take office in 2012. As a party man, Mr Simon will vote Labour in May. But it will really mess up his plans if too many others do the same.