Village People: Cheesed off in Leicester
Saturday 19 March 2011
Cries of "control freakery" can be heard from the Labour stronghold of Leicester South, where party members will gather today to select a candidate for a by-election they can be pretty sure of winning.
The seat became vacant when Sir Peter Soulsby stood down to concentrate on running to be Leicester's first elected mayor. More than 50 hopefuls applied to be the Labour candidate, and when a head office team whittled that down to a shortlist of four, they omitted the former leader of Leicester council, Ross Willmott, and a fellow councillor, Abdul Osman.
But they included Jonathan Ashworth, who is well connected in the Westminster village. He works for Ed Miliband, and used to work for Gordon Brown, who was a guest at his wedding last July. But as one party member complained: "He hasn't got any connection with Leicester at all." But my Source Close To says it was not Ed Miliband who decided to put Ashworth on the shortlist but the head-office team, acting independently. "Ed is actually incredibly jumpy about Jonathan going for this seat because it will look like control freakery," I am told.
Pass the port
There is a referendum being held this Wednesday afternoon, not about voting systems, but about something much more concrete. Dover is holding a parish poll on a proposal to turn Britain's busiest port into a "People's Port" rather than be put up for sale. Given that those in favour include the local Tory MP Charles Elphicke, the country's biggest union, Unite, and Dame Vera Lynn, 93, you may be able to guess which way the vote will go.
During 40 years as a Conservative MP, Sir Patrick Cormack never rose higher than deputy shadow leader of the House, but always exuded a sense of his own dignity, which has not diminished now that he is Lord Cormack. As peers discussed Nick Clegg's intention to deprive some of the Lords of their life memberships, Lord Cormack rose to say: "My letters patent give me the right to sit here for life. Are we to attach more importance to the letters patent from the Queen or to the views of the temporary Deputy Prime Minister?"
Vague about Hague
The kindest thing the Foreign Secretary William Hague has heard said about him for many weeks was a slip of the tongue. When he was being questioned by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee this week, the Labour MP Mike Gapes addressed him as "Prime Minister". A gratified Mr Hague replied: "I gave up wanting to be that a long time ago, but thank you."
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