Never trust a Tory: Liberal Democrats make their feelings clear as by-election approaches in Corby

Our diarist notices some joyful ironies in the constituency of Corby - and whatever has Craig Oliver done to the tradition of monthly press conferences?

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Just because the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are in coalition does not mean that they are always best mates. In Weldon, near Corby, there lives a man who prefers not to be named, whose next-door neighbour is secretary of the local Conservative Party.

One day, she informed him that she was going to have a 4ft-high fence put up to separate their properties, but when built, it turned out to be more like a 7ft one. For more than a year now, there has been a notice on display, put up by her furious neighbour, saying: “I was told a 4’ fence. Never trust a Tory.” This summer, Corby became the scene of a by-election, during which a local Liberal Democrat councillor persuaded the Liberal Democrat candidate, Jill Hope, to be photographed in front of the sign, which is featured on literature being distributed around Corby. Last week, Nick Clegg was in town to endorse this candidate who is advising voters that they can never trust a Tory. He should know.

There’s only one JC

David Cameron has chosen a senior Treasury civil servant, Jean-Christophe Gray, known as JC, as his new press spokesman. There is a particular reason that he is known as JC, according to the former Downing Street spinner, Damian McBride. It arose from the chronic difficulty Gordon Brown had in remembering the names of those who worked for him. “He tried several times to get the hang of saying ‘Jean-Christophe’ when barking out instructions... before the solution of using ‘JC’ was suggested to him,” McBride claims.

Later, McBride revealed, another new recruit, Rita Patel, joined the staff, only to be introduced to a gathering of business executives as “Ruth”. She shouted: “It’s Rita, Chancellor, Rita!” and Brown “never got her name wrong again.”

A pressing matter

When David Cameron first entered Downing Street, he continued the tradition of monthly press conferences introduced by Tony Blair and upheld by Gordon Brown. Then he had to let go of his media adviser, Andy Coulson, now awaiting trial in connection with the phone-hacking saga, and took on Craig Oliver (above), a BBC man who is shyer than a badger and, in the opinion of many disgruntled political hacks, would be more use if he were culled. Under Craig, the last “monthly” presser was on 8 July 2011.

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