Diary: when Hansard insisted on 'deleting genitalia'

Andy McSmith
Monday 25 June 2012 23:18
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There is a startling revelation in the latest volume of The Alastair Campbell Diaries, in the entry for 22 May 2003. During a cabinet meeting, the Home Secretary David Blunkett made a brief intervention. "People ought to read Hansard," Blunkett said, "especially when they were recommending 'delete genitalia and insert penis'."

A remarkable fact about Blunkett was that, being blind, he was almost always better informed than anyone else about what was in documents. Others could skim through looking for the bits that mattered. Blunkett had to have documents read out and had to listen the whole way through in case he missed anything.

But what was he talking about? A check through Hansard reveals that in, May 2003, the House of Lords was debating a bill that proposed a change in the law against indecent self-exposure. Hitherto, this had been an offence that could be committed only by men. Blunkett's civil servants had decided to iron out this sexual discrimination so that women could also be prosecuted for flashing.

Baroness Noakes thought this was "an excessive dose of political correctness" and tabled what is known as a "probing amendment" containing the words, "insert penis".

Does size matter in politics?

The MP for Slough Fiona Mactaggart, who is Labour though her father was a Tory MP, has told the Slough Express: "I should really have been a Conservative, because I'm taller than all the Labour male MPs. Most Tory MPs appear to be my size or even taller." I had never noticed Tory MPs are taller than Labour ones, but now she has said it, I think it might be true. What it signifies, I have no idea.

A lame consolation for England fans

Of all the useless attempts to cheer up England fans, this – tweeted by Jeremy Hunt – takes the trophy: "Misery yesterday but let's not forget Howard Webb, one Englishman still in Euros and one of the best refs in the world."

Cheltenham as never seen before...

Most of us associate Cheltenham with the Gold Cup, the literary festival and the Ladies' College, but when Barbara Driver, a former mayor, visited the US, she was startled to learn Americans link it with prostitution. "I'm sitting there in the US and the conversation is about the sex trade in Cheltenham," she told the Gloucestershire Echo. She is pushing the council to formulate a strategy to clean up the streets.

... while Krays live up to expectations

David Bailey created one of the most enduring images from the 1960s when he got the Kray twins to pose for him. He has been talking to Time Out about his relations with the pair ahead of next week's opening of the exhibition Bailey's East End.

"People say, 'How could you like Reg?' I did like him. He didn't do anything to me.

"Ron I avoided, 'cos a slip of the tongue and you could be dead. I was driving along with him one day and someone cut his car up. Ron went like that with his jacket" – here Bailey did a "getting-gun-out-of-jacket" motion – "and said, 'Shall we get him?' And I'm going, 'Best leave it, or we'll be late'."

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