Village People: 06/03/2010

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Indy Politics

A letter Chris Grayling has been dreading?

*Tim Montgomerie, who runs the ConservativeHome website, produces a news sheet, Intelligence Letter. I imagine Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, blanched when he saw last week's issue.

Montgomerie analysed the speech David Cameron gave in Brighton the previous weekend, in search of clues as to who will hold which jobs in the event of a Tory victory. William Hague, Liam Fox and Andrew Lansley were named as the future Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, and Health Secretary, and George Osborne, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Gove, Theresa May, and Baroness Warsi were mentioned. But Chris Grayling, who holds one of the most senior jobs in the Shadow Cabinet, was a "glaring omission", making him "the most vulnerable" team member, Montgomerie says.

No fly on Boris

*There is fog and mist on "Boris Island", the site in Kent where London's Mayor is – or was – thinking of locating a new airport. He has been arguing since 2008 that an airport in the Thames estuary is a serious alternative to expanding Heathrow. This got zero support from David Cameron, but last October Boris appointed a 10-man group to do a feasibility study. But on the BBC's Question Time on Thursday, he declared: "I don't want to build an airport in the Thames Estuary." What? Yesterday, his spokesman explained: "The Mayor was referring to the fact that there are no actual plans in place to build an airport." Was he? It sounded like he had given in to Cameron.

Majestic dispute over a seat in the Commons

*Sir Patrick Cormack, Conservative MP for South Staffordshire, is bowing out at the general election after 40 years. Matthew Parris, a former Tory MP turned journalist, described Sir Patrick "a man of such majesty that even colleagues do not always appreciate how majestic he is". This week's majestic oration was about whether the person who chairs a committee should be called a "chairman" or a "chair".

"Do not let us depart from the nomenclature that has defined this House," Sir Patrick pleaded. "Do not let us debase and demean the English language by moving in the direction of calling our MPs furniture."

But time has passed Sir Patrick by, as Tony Wright, chairthing of the Commons Administration Committee, explained. Parliament must "move from a term that is intrinsically gender-laden to one that is gender-neutral".

In the new Parliament, every committee will have a chair, not a chairman, with one weird exception. There used to be a committee called Ways and Means. It was abolished in 1967, but still has a Chairman. That title will remain.

Olympic funding is a largely private function

*Listeners to the Today programme yesterday will have heard that 65 per cent of the 2012 Olympics team were educated at private schools. This is not unconnected with the selling off of state school playing fields: in one London borough, one field is shared by 14 secondary schools. You might think the Lottery is there to redress the balance. However, tucked in the back of the previous day's Hansard was another fact, that a survey of athletes who received lottery funds through UK Sport showed that 22 per cent were at or had been at private schools. The private sector educates 6.5 per cent of Britain's children.

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