Andy McSmith's Diary: Sepp Blatter and the Hillsborough 'savages'

Our man in the corridors of power on the rudeness of a Fifa boss, the goings-on at Conservative Central Office, and the prospects of Matthew Hancock MP


Looking back at the Hansard record for the day in April 1989 when the Commons debated the Hillsborough disaster for the first time, you cannot but feel that the atmosphere was less emotionally charged than it was yesterday. There is no record of anyone even reacting when the Tory MP Irvine Patnick called on the forthcoming Taylor Inquiry to focus on "the part that alcohol played in the disaster".

David Cameron confirmed yesterday that Mr Patnick was one of those propagating the slander about drunken fans desecrating the dead. While his remarks were ignored, there was a protest from the former Sports minister, Denis Howell, about the way that football's international governing bodies had jumped in to blame the fans.

He quoted Jacques Georges, of Uefa, who thought the Liverpool fans were "savages." He also singled out an official from Fifa whose first reaction had been to ask "Will the fans never learn?" That person's name, Mr Howell disclosed, was Sepp Blatter.

Cheery news from Central Office

Another piece of good news can be put alongside yesterday's announcement that the jobless total has fallen nationally. A couple of the ministers who lost their jobs in last week's reshuffle have found new jobs at Conservative Central Office.

The former whip Michael Fabricant, aka Micky Fab, is the "vice-chairman for parliamentary campaigning", and Bob Neill, who was upset at being sacked form his job as Local Government minister, is now "vice-chairman for local government". I knew that would cheer you up.

Hancock the Great?

Until his appointment as a minister in the Business department last week, George Osborne's former adviser, Matthew Hancock, sat on the all-party Public Accounts Committee, where some fellow members suspected him of being in there for the sole purpose of defending his old boss.

Still, as a committee member he signed his name to a blistering attack on the Government's Regional Growth Fund. During the period when the report was being printed, Mr Hancock landed his new job, and discovered that he was the minister who had to reply to the report. Without so such as blinking, he went straight on to the airwaves to assure the public that "progress is being made".

Advance publicity for this week's Spectator reveals that Mr Hancock has given an interview in which he compares himself to Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli – but does he think either of those gentleman was anywhere as smart as he is? Must read it to find out.

The stress begins to show

If your MP appears to be going bonkers, the cause could be the stress of the new regime introduced to avert another expenses scandal. The hassle of getting their claims through the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, made worse by constant jokes from members of the public, is taking its toll on their mental well being, according to Dr Ira Madan, consultant occupational physician at the House of Commons.

"If they go to the hairdresser people will say 'Are you going to put that on expenses?'. It might be funny for the first one or two times but actually it gets right up their noses," she told a Commons committee.

The Moggy's on a roll(er)

The Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is an odd looking fellow with some odd opinions, but he does have a lovely turn of phrase. In an obscure late evening debate earlier this week about something to do with the EU, the Moggy for some reason started speculating on how the Beijing government might react if he, the Moggy, were to tell them to adjust their interest rates.

He concluded: "I fear that even if the Foreign Office, our most esteemed and distinguished Foreign Office, that Rolls-Royce Department – possibly a Rolls-Royce made rather more recently, in the 1970s, with a little bit of engine trouble and a little bit of oil leakage, but none the less with very fine leather inside and looking very nice – sent a message to China saying what its monetary policy should be, the Chinese wouldn't take any notice." He's right, I'm sure.

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