Diary: There's a hole in our budget, dear Philip, dear Philip...

Our diarist on the mystery of Trident's reappearing funds, Nadine Dorries' voting mistake and some bare-faced cheek in Whitehall

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The Independent Online

Paying for Britain’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, is a mysterious business. Conservative ministers complain of being left by the Labour government with a large hole in the defence budget, including the multibillion-pound commitment to renew the submarine-launched ballistic missile system for which, allegedly, no funds were set aside. But the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond says the “black hole” in the defence budget is now sorted and Trident has its place within the core defence programme. To seek more information, however, is like setting out on a mystery tour.

There is an exercise under way to look into possible alternatives to Trident, as demanded by the Liberal Democrats. How much is that costing, the former Labour Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth enquired, in a Commons written question. The question was passed across to Danny Alexander, the senior Liberal Democrat in the Treasury. “The costs of the review are met from within existing departmental budgets and … are not centrally recorded,” was his reply this week.

A Trident missile was test-fired in the Atlantic last month. What did that cost, asked the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, in a separate written question. “The cost cannot be disaggregated,” a junior Defence minister, Philip Dunne, answered. The SNP’s Angus Robertson was interested in the Trident we already have. “How much has been spent on the maintenance, operation and re-fitting of Trident submarines in each of the last 10 years,” he asked, in yet another written question. This time, no lesser person than the Defence Secretary himself replied, if you can call it a reply. “It is not possible to provide full costs for the Vanguard class for the whole of the last 10 years,” he wrote. Thanks so much for keeping us in the picture.

Dorries’ exit poll proves wildly inaccurate

Part of Nadine Dorries’s rationale for appearing on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! was asserting that “more people vote in X Factor than in elections”. I’m grateful to Tim Glanfield, in Radio Times, for this fact: in 2010, 29,691,380 people voted in the general election, in which it is illegal to vote more than once. The same year’s X Factor, in which you can vote as often as you like, drew 15,448,019 votes.

Caught between a  rock and a hard drive

David Sprason, a Tory county councillor in Leicestershire, suffered a moment’s absent-mindedness in 2007. He and his wife, Sue, also a councillor, watched a porn DVD called She Likes It Rough on a laptop owned by the council. The computer crashed. Mr Sprason took it to be fixed. A little later, he received an letter from a monitoring officer telling him he forgot to remove the disk, which was being sent to police to see if it contained criminal content. It didn’t and there the matter lay dormant, until that letter was leaked to the Leicester Mercury. Mr Sprason has now stepped down from his position as deputy county council leader while his party whip investigates.

The bare-faced cheek of it…

A naked man brought traffic in Whitehall to a standstill on Friday by climbing a statue of the Duke of Cambridge (not the current Duke, a grandson of King George III). The only person who publicly threatened to do anything of that sort was pundit Iain Dale who, on election night in 2010, vouchsafed to run naked down Whitehall if the Liberal Democrats really had as few MPs as the exit polls were predicting. They did, but Mr Dale’s promise is unkept.