Village People: Westminster's very own prison pen pal

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Indy Politics

One of the peculiarities of our unwritten constitution is that anyone elected to public office, such as an MP, is automatically disqualified if they are sentenced to a long prison term, but that does not apply to members of the House of Lords, who are not elected.

Jeffrey Archer spent two years in prison for perjury, but he is still Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare. He has not returned to the House of Lords since his conviction, but that is his decision. And the barrister John Taylor who was convicted this week of falsifying his expenses, may be on the point of being banged up, but he will continue to be Lord Taylor of Warwick during and after he does his porridge.

Just before his court appearance, Lord Taylor bombarded ministers with at least 28 written questions on a variety of topics, all of which were answered last week. Eight were answered on the very day he was found guilty. If he wants to, he will be able to keep busy in his cell tabling more questions for ministers to respond to.

A dishonourable member

I have had occasion to write once before that the most ridiculous MP in the present Parliament has got to be John Hemming, the millionaire Lib Dem love rat from Birmingham who said he was voting to increase tuition fees because he was cross with students who had occupied his office. His wife is awaiting trial on a charge of stealing his mistress's cat, and now the Political Scrapbook website records that Mr Hemming has told his local press: "No one can promise not to have affairs... Do you want someone who behaves like a vicar or a monk?" Probably not, but his constituents might prefer someone who doesn't behave like a pillock.

Labour's spin machine still has all the answers

Nineteen teams competed in a quiz night in the Parliamentary press gallery this week, where journos and politicos pitted their knowledge of current affairs.

The winners were the Labour Party spin doctors. Their star contestant was Ed Miliband's chief briefer, Bob Roberts, whose Daily Mirror training has left him with a skull full of useful trivia. Tom Baldwin, Labour's Director of Communications, was both a participant and the answer to one of the questions, but he was not there to help answer it because he was late. (By the way, if you're reading this, Mr Baldwin, your old colleagues at The Times say they wish you had cleared your desk before you changed jobs.) Oh, but shame on the spin doctors from the Lib Dems, who came 17th, and the Tories, who came 18th.

When a rose isn't a rose...

Strange things have been said during the endless Lords debate on the parliamentary reform bill. On Wednesday, Lord Elystan-Morgan went all poetic as he discussed the sanctity of Welsh constituency borders. He told peers: "TS Eliot says that a 'rose is a rose is a rose'. It says everything. We could say 'A nation is a nation is nation'."

Very deep and meaningful, m'lud, but Eliot did not say anything of the sort. The quotation is from the 1913 poem "Sacred Emily", by Gertrude Stein.

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