Village People: A popular but shadowy figure
Saturday 25 June 2011
Ed Miliband's decision to end elections to the Shadow Cabinet leaves one MP with the never-to-be-equalled record of being elected to this body 14 times.
It was not John Smith, elected 13 times from 1979 to 1991. Nor Robin Cook, who ran every year from 1983 to 1996, but failed to make it in 1986. Nor John Cunningham, who ran in each of those same 14 years, but was bumped off in 1995. No, the king of the shad cab elections, elected every year without fail from 1983 to 1996, was Michael Meacher. Who never made it to the Cabinet.
Too old for her majority
Glenda Jackson's announcement that she is not seeking re-election as Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn brings to mind another snippet of parliamentary trivia. Discounting Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew, Ms Jackson is the only serving MP who is older than her majority. In last year's election, she held her seat by 42 votes. Her age is 75.
Cameron lets slip Libyan intentions
"When we are at war, as we are in both Afghanistan and Libya," David Cameron said on Wednesday, in a rebuke to the top military brass for speaking out of turn, "it is extremely important, whether one is a political leader or a military leader, to think very carefully about what one is about to say." But, Prime Minister, we are not "at war" in Libya, and I for one say that political leaders should think very carefully before they say we are.
Trotsky's lesson for our times
In the current issue of The Bookseller, Tony Blair repeats that the first book to rouse his interest in politics was Isaac Deutscher's three-volume biography of Trotsky. Mr Blair will therefore know why the second volume, which starts in 1921, is called The Prophet Unarmed. It is because, in Deutscher's view, Trotsky destroyed his moral authority by calling for the suppression of trade unions in the workers' state. That has a contemporary ring, has it not?
Two journalistic enigmas
Speaking at the launch of his and James Macintyre's new book on Ed Miliband, parts of which were serialised in The Mail on Sunday, Mehdi Hasan observed that that one of those present, the broadcaster and chairman of the Press Holdings Media Group, Andrew Neil, had tweeted not two weeks earlier to ask "Why did two New Statesman lefties who hate the Mail have their new Miliband biog serialised in Mail? Surely not greed?!" Unabashed Neil called out from the audience: "What's the answer?" To which Hasan retorted: "Why is Andrew Neil presenting on the BBC when he owns papers that slag it off all the time?" That makes two unanswered questions.
The king's speech of the future
And here is another, posed by the former speaker, the redoubtable Betty Boothroyd, as peers discussed the Government's plans to replace the House of Lords with an elected senate. "We celebrate great national events adorned with pageantry," she pointed out. "The state opening of Parliament takes place here in this chamber. I note that there is no move to scrap that. Why?"
Good question. When all the ermine and titles and ceremony of the House of Lords have vanished in a modern, efficient elected senate, it will be strange indeed to see an elderly King Charles III wander in with the royal flunkeys to deliver the annual king's speech. Perhaps they should let Colin Firth do it.
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