Village people: 12/12/2009


Why the veto, Jack?


*Thursday was a good day for burying bad news, as every journalist in the Westminster Village was immersed in MPs' expenses, so a highly contentious decision by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced that day, received less attention than it might have.

He has overruled the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, who had instructed the Cabinet Office to release some old government papers under the Freedom of Information Act. It is only the second time that Straw has used his veto. The first was in February, when he barred publication of papers relating to the ruling by the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, that the invasion of Iraq was legal. This veto concerns the much drier subject of devolution in Scotland and Wales, which ministers fought over in a Cabinet sub committee in summer 1997.

The Commissioner argued that after 12 years, and with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly up and running, these old arguments were no longer sensitive. Straw says they are. But why?

Here is a clue. In Paragraph 29 of his judgement, Mr Graham noted that, of all these participants in these discussions, "only one remains active in Government". He did not name that solitary survivor, who might not want his old attempts to obstruct devolution made public after all these years.

It is, in fact, the former Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Unlucky four some

*News from the EU summit in Brussels – South Korea has agreed to join the ISAF force Afghanistan – but not yet. If they were to join now, they would be the 44th member of the coalition. In Korea, four is an unlucky number.

Prezza denies talking crap

*"Bush is crap; you know it, I know it, the party knows it ," John Prescott tells the New Statesman. Yes, we know, because the then-deputy Prime Minister's biographer, Colin Brown, reported in The Independent on 17 August 2006 that he had used that very word "crap" at a private meeting with Labour MPs. It was confirmed by the Labour MP Harry Cohen. But a statement issued by Mr Prescott on the day said: "This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view." Perhaps the prefix "in" and the word "not" slipped in by mistake.

Reportedly an actress

*Those who saw the penultimate episode of The Thick of It will have spotted the BBC Political Correspondent Carole Walker, apparently reporting live from Downing Street on the sacking of the bellicose spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. One person who missed it was Ms Walker. She was not acting. They used some old footage with the sound turned off, and the first she knew of her starring role was when the texts and emails poured in afterwards.

Tories' family seat

*Last night, the Conservatives chose their candidate in Orpington, Kent, one of the 10 safest Tory seats in the country. The victor is assured a seat in the Commons, but not necessarily the love of the locals. "This smacks of cronyism and the old pal's act," was a fairly typical comment, from 66-year-old Rob Miles in the Bromley News. He was referring to a shortlist of possible candidates which did not include anyone from Orpington, but did feature Victoria Atkins, daughter of the Tory MEP Sir Robert Atkins, and Jo Johnson, who has a brother called Boris.

Blogger blocked

*But they left out Iain Dale, the nation's top Tory blogger. This keeps happening to Mr Dale, who says he is "gutted" – and who can blame him?

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