Village People: Breaking up early
Saturday 17 July 2010
Good news for MPs: they are getting two days' extra holiday. The Commons was to break up for the summer on Thursday week, 29 July, but a last-minute decision has brought the date forward to 27 July. Why? You might well ask.
Next week, David Cameron is making his first trip to Washington, so Nick Clegg was to stand in for him at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. That is all right. From the founding of the coalition, it was always envisaged that Clegg would have the occasional shot at PMQs.
But the following week, Cameron is off to India, which would have meant Clegg strutting his stuff for two weeks in a row. Suddenly, the Tory high command was nervous. What if Clegg turned out to be good at it? What impression would it give if Cameron is seen travelling the globe leaving a Liberal Democrat in charge for two weeks running? Rather than risk it, they are closing Parliament down on a Tuesday.
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are learning to behave like a governing party – meaning that their bosses are acting like control freaks terrified of bad publicity. Ahead of the "away day" for MPs on Thursday, when their members trooped across Westminster Bridge for a pep talk from Mr Clegg, they were all sent identical messages exhorting them not to speak to journalists but to look happy as they went in.
Trouble with the neighbours
David Miliband, the candidate most Labour MPs expect to be their next leader, has a problem in his back yard. He lives in Primrose Hill, in Camden, north London. Five years ago, Camden's council tenants were told by the Labour government that their homes were being transferred to a private landlord. They objected, and as a result the government withheld a £238m grant for home improvements.
Mr Miliband was local government minister at the time. When he turned up at a public meeting in Camden recently, he was tackled about this still unsorted problem, and had, not surprisingly, forgotten all about it. Tenants' organisers in Camden were not impressed. "He clearly doesn't read the local papers," writes one furious correspondent in the pages of the Camden New Journal.
Mandy and the Sugar Rolls
The memoirs of Peter Mandelson, out this week, do not make for gripping reading, but within the turgid prose are some choice nuggets, such as this description of Alan – now Lord – Sugar, who served as "business tsar" when Lord Mandelson was business secretary: "He had an admirable capacity for ruffling feathers, even mine, although I quickly got over his habit of parking his enormous Rolls-Royce in the space at the rear of the department that was reserved for the Secretary of State."
Yes, we can all see how someone so free of thin-skinned pomposity as Lord Mandelson would ignore the small matter of someone nicking his parking space.
Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, has tabled an indignant question to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs about the difficulty people who buy expensive horses have in checking whether a nag is truly pedigree.
There is, he complains, a "lack of availability of data on semen imports and artificial insemination". James Paice, the Environment Minister, had to admit that the government does not maintain such statistics.
Is Mr Kawczynski on to something? With Defra facing large cuts, should its ministers be thinking of assembling a team of investigators to protect the interests of wealthy horse buyers?
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