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The French speaking cuckoo in the nest who refuses to play to the Tory right

Our diarist on the curious influence of the Attorney General
  • @andymcsmith

Dominic Grieve, the assiduous and serious Attorney-General, is threatening to supplant Kenneth Clarke as the Tory politician most loathed by the right. Yesterday, when confronted with two emotive issues, he failed to give answers which play to the popular mood.

One was the peculiar case of the imprisoned SAS soldier Sergeant Danny Nightingale, in which Mr Grieve said it would be “inappropriate” for the Government to pre-empt the decision of a Court Martial Appeal Court. That was not what the right wanted to hear.

The other was over whether prisoners should be allowed to vote, as instructed by the European Court of Human Rights. David Cameron has said that the very idea made him feel sick, whereas the Attorney-General warned MPs that defying an ECHR judgment “would be a serious matter, because it would place the UK in breach of its international obligations.” He is obviously a cuckoo in the nest, this Mr Grieve. What is more, he speaks fluent French.

Answer the phone at your peril

Gus O’Donnell, the recently retired and ennobled former head of the civil service, remarked during a presentation at the Office of National Statistics that the most important lesson for people in his position is to learn not to answer the phone. He cited the case of Sir Howard Davies, former head of the Financial Services Authority, who made the error of answering the phone last year. Now Sir Howard is chairing the commission on the future of London’s airports. What conclusions he reaches will either infuriate the airlines, or people living near the airports, or both.

The Corby MP and the Bibleless oath

A detail about the arrival in the House of Commons of the new Labour MPs Andy Sawford, for Corby, and Stephen Doughty, for Cardiff South. With hand on Bible, Doughty took the standard oath of allegiance to the Queen; but Sawford did not. He affirmed. This is interesting only because there was a persistent story during the Corby by-election that Sawford is the godson of the former Corby MP, Phil Hope. He could not be anyone’s godson for the same reason he did not take the oath: he was never baptised. It was something his Protestant father and Roman Catholic mother could not agree on.

Bercow Twitter feed: a feminist principle

One of Westminster’s most widely read Twitter feeds suddenly went off air yesterday. Those longing to share the thoughts of Sally Bercow were directed to a message saying “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist.” The tweeter in the Speaker’s house has been bedevilled by legal problems. She is being pursued for libel by Lord McAlpine for naming him on Twitter during speculation about whether there was a paedophile in the Lords, and she breached a court order by naming a child involved in an impending case. The final straw was that she was hacked in the middle of the night. It was the hacker who forced Twitter users to cope without their daily dose of  @sallybercow, though only temporarily. Her brief disappearance wrought many expressions of regret, including an over-the-top reaction from former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who wrote as if Mrs Bercow were dead – “Sally Bercow was not the Speaker. The Speaker is defined by his own actions, and his wife by her own actions…she lived out an important feminist principle.”

Sally Bercow’s Twitter musings are fun, unless you are Lord McAlpine, and she writes things her husband would never say, but whether that makes her the Mary Wollstonecraft of our time is another matter.