Andy McSmith's Diary: Nick Clegg’s mini-manifesto is bumped off the agenda again - thanks to the royal baby news

The announcement was also badly timed for Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC.

Andy McSmith@andymcsmith
Monday 08 September 2014 19:56
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Poor Nick Clegg. The launch of the Liberal Democrats’ mini-manifesto was to be the start of the party’s fight-back as its support in opinion polls sinks to insignificance. It was originally scheduled for Wednesday of last week, but had to be postponed because of horrific events in the Middle East.

Instead, it was held yesterday morning, but seconds before the Deputy Prime Minister walked on stage at the National Liberal Club, news of the royal pregnancy went around the room, guaranteeing that there will be no space in today’s tabloids for Clegg’s thoughts. As a further irritant, when he called for questions, there were none about the document he was launching: they were all about either the Duchess’s bump or the Scottish referendum.

The announcement was also badly timed for Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC. Her speech to the unions was being broadcast live when she was cut off in mid-sentence, just after she had criticised what she called the “Downton Abbey-style society”.

‘Traitorous testicles’ debate

Watch out for an interesting encounter in Clacton tomorrow. Douglas Carswell is out and about most days, running for re-election with Ukip, while John Moss, a Conservative councillor from Waltham Forest, is on a day trip to canvass support for the Tories.

Councillor Moss claims that he is taking a hammer and nails with him. This follows the message he sent Carswell on Twitter: “I want to see your traitorous testicles nailed to Clacton pier.” Great how these Tories enhance the level of public debate.

Nicky Morgan acts after Gove snub

Last May, Michael Gove was sent an open letter by Alison Utting, from Shropshire, whose husband Gareth, a secondary school teacher, had died the previous month from a heart attack, aged 37. She claimed that the stress of a teacher’s working life was a contributory cause.

Her letter was published on Facebook and received over 100,000 likes – but she never heard a word back from the Education Secretary. Now, finally, she has: not from Gove but from his successor, Nicky Morgan, who rang and talked privately for half an hour. “After talking to her I do believe her heart is in the right place,” Mrs Utting told the Shropshire Star.

‘Chook-ah’, like snooker

“Just give me the absolutely correct pronunciation of your name,” Alastair Campbell asked Labour’s Chuka Umunna, whom he interviewed for GQ magazine. Chuka replied: “Chook-ah. Uh-mun-a. Think ‘snooker’ and throw in your Northern accent, and you’ll be OK.” He added: “I love my name.”

Ukip’s other by-election hope

Tributes to the Labour MP, Jim Dobbin, who died suddenly during a parliamentary visit to Poland, emphasised what a nice man he was. That may be so, but he was also very divisive.

He chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, in which he fought against two decisions that came out of the Department of Health in June and July. One permits midwives to assist in abortions; the other allows doctors to perform a procedure called mitochondrial transfer, which prevents mothers undergoing IVF from passing on certain genetic disorders, which Dobbin regarded as genetic modification.

He was also one of the small number of Labour MPs to oppose gay marriage. To give him his due, his mix of left-of-centre economic views and extreme social conservatism will have reflected the opinions of a chunk of his electorate. Heywood and Middleton is the sort of place where Ukip could present a serious threat to Labour in the by-election.

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