Diary: Ashdown - get a life, get a real job... and then enter politics

Andy McSmith@andymcsmith
Thursday 17 May 2012 20:14

Paddy Ashdown, the first leader of the Liberal Democrat party, has remarked on how politics has been taken over by people who have never had a job anywhere else but in politics, giving the strong impression that he does not approve. "The difference with politics today, and politics when I was leader of the Liberal Democrats, is the people working in politics," he said. "I worked in the military. I was involved in business. I have been unemployed twice, working as a voluntary youth worker. Today's politicians have simply only ever been politicians."

His remarks, made during a lecture in Clovelly, Devon, and reported in the North Devon Journal, have certainly drawn attention to a striking fact about modern politicians. David Cameron, for example, is the first Prime Minister to have gone straight from university to a job as a researcher at party headquarters.

And consider the CV of another of our political leaders – six years a student, a year as a lobbyist, another as a journalist, then five years working for the European Commission, six years as an MEP and seven years so far as an MP. This is the life story of the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.

Clegg gets lost in the texting subtext

Sticking with Nick Clegg, his deputy Danny Alexander (who once had a job outside politics, for one year, as chief press spokesman for the Cairngorms National Park) told yesterday's Commons Press Gallery lunch a story about Clegg and text messaging, following the revelation that David Cameron thought "LOL" meant "lots of love". Alexander revealed that during their first few months in office, Clegg sent numerous texts containing the message "OMG". "I thought he was getting stressed out, but it's code in the Clegg household for 'On Miriam Guidance'," he revealed.

Not sitting too pretty

Much hilarity in the House of Commons after the Tory Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, finished speaking at the Despatch Box and sat firmly down on the lap of the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State, Ed Davey. Tessa Munt, who was supposed to be speaking next, was laughing too much to get a word out. Mr Hendry told MPs that it was an example of the Coalition "working seamlessly together".

McDonnell's luck is holding out

The left-wing Labour MP, John McDonnell, has again taken the coveted top slot in a ballot to decide which MPs will be allocated time to introduce Private Members' Bills during the current parliamentary session. He will use the opportunity to introduce a Bill giving Parliament the power to scrutinise future candidates for the post of Governor of the Bank of England – which does not mean it will get passed, but it will certainly be argued over.

The BBC is claiming that the odds against anyone topping this ballot in two successive parliaments are 58,000-to-1, which may understate how unlikely it actually is. There were 246 MPs' names entered in this year's ballot. Assuming the number was the same last year, the odds are 60,516-to-1. Either way, this man should buy a lottery ticket.

Please bring your own wife and fork...

The Queen is courting controversy with the guest list for today's Diamond Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle and dinner at Buckingham Palace. That tireless campaigner Peter Tatchell has listed eight "royal tyrants" who will be present – six Arab monarchs, plus the kings of Brunei and Swaziland. "The guest list displays gross insensitivity to the suffering of people who have been persecuted by royal despots," Tatchell suggests.

Here is another problem – what if they brought their wives? King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has 13, though he brought only four on his last visit to the UK. Mswati III of Swaziland appears to be down to 12, because one wife fled the harem last week, alleging abuse. The Sultan of Bahrain has four, the Sultan of Brunei has two, after divorcing the third; and so on. If they all turned up, there would not be enough knives and forks to go round.

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