Village People: 26/06/2010

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A dress to die for

I was saddened to hear this week that the former Conservative MP Angela Rumbold had died. I had lunch with her once when she was an education minister.

Just that morning, she had suffered what could have been a career destroying experience, of a kind that could only happen to a female minister in an administration headed by a woman.

She had been to a meeting in 10 Downing Street, where she found that she and Margaret Thatcher were wearing identical dresses. The Prime Minister's reaction was gracious, in the circumstances.

"It looks better on you," she said, between gritted teeth. That was not the reaction from the first woman to whom I repeated this tale: "She's lucky she wasn't sent to the Tower!"

Heroes' lament

An unsolicited email pops into my inbox from Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Apparently, he has had another letter this week from Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warning that his party may still be breaking the law, despite agreeing to end its "whites only" policy.

"What would the heroes of D-Day, charging up the beaches of Normandy through a hail of machine gun bullets, have thought had they known that one day a black Marxist would use taxpayers' money to persecute British patriots fighting for their country?" Mr Griffin wants to know.

"What would those Spitfire pilots..." Sorry. I cannot bear to continue. The heart bleeds.

Sealed with a loving tweet

After all those stories you have read about MPs in sex scandals, here is one to make you go "Aww". At 1.19am last Sunday, the newly elected Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham, Duncan Hames, sent out a short Twitter message which read: "Asking the question".

Almost at once, his fellow Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson, who became Britain's youngest MP when she was elected for East Dunbartonshire in 2005, at the age of 25, tweeted back: "Answering 'yes' :o)".

"It is not a match made in heaven," said Corsham town councillor Isabel Langsford. "It is a match made in Parliament."

Cumbria's media frenzy

While some people's attention was distracted by a football match on Wednesday afternoon, a hushed conversation was taking place in the House of Commons on the subject of the shootings in Cumbria.

It cannot be called a debate, because there was no disagreement, but one highly controversial issue was aired. The local Labour MP, Jamie Reed, launched an attack on the behaviour of some of the journalists who covered the murders – particularly the national media – who descended on the area in the aftermath of the murders waving their chequebooks.

"Nobody ever agreed to have friends and family members offered money if they spoke to, or obtained a photo of a distraught relative of one of those who died, or to have six-figure sums paid for exclusives, or smaller sums paid to them if they could tell the whereabouts of certain individuals," he said.

But Mr Reed went out of his way to praise local journalists such as those on The Whitehaven News, whom he said had covered the story "with a care and diligence entirely different from that of the national media".