Andy McSmith's Diary: One Lib Dem MP the party can live without


Andy McSmith
Thursday 18 September 2014 22:58 BST

The sigh of relief from the Liberal Democrats’ Great George Street headquarters could almost be heard above the sound of Big Ben. They have a letter of resignation from an MP. Normally, it is a blow to a political party to lose an MP less than a year from a general election, but this is a loss the Liberal Democrats can live with.

Mike Hancock, who for some reason is known around Westminster as “Handy”, spent almost five years denying that he had sexually harassed a vulnerable constituent until eventually he admitted in court that he had behaved in a way that made her “feel deeply uncomfortable and discriminated against”.

He was suspended from the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary group and lost his seat on Portsmouth Council. The party has chosen another candidate to fight his parliamentary seat at next year’s election.

But he is still the MP for Portsmouth South, and until yesterday was a paid-up Liberal Democrat party member. It runs against the culture of the party to expel one of its members, but at HQ they were gearing up for a disciplinary hearing, when the resignation letter saved them the trouble.

A Tory high-flier?

Next year’s general election campaign in Thanet South promises to be fun. With Nigel Farage standing as a Ukip candidate, the Tories are understandably sweating bricks over how they can hold the seat. They have now advertised for an agent to help run the local party. The advert promises a “competitive salary” for “an enthusiastic and ambitious on-the-ground campaigner who enjoys a wide-ranging role”.

But let us not overlook the potential entertainment to be provided by the Green candidate, Councillor Ian Driver, who hit the headlines in March when he announced that he was looking for a suitable site on which to open Britain’s first Amsterdam-style cannabis café. Nothing came of it, but his latest shenanigan is to photograph himself standing in a derelict site in Ramsgate, which he had been advised not to enter, and then to lodge a formal complaint against himself with the council, demanding that the standards committee should look into his “disgraceful and disreputable actions.” A contest not to be missed.

The Diary vs Dorries

What a difficult person the Tory MP Nadine Dorries is. I did not like the way she took to the mass media to accuse a man who had been causing her grief of being a criminal, after the Crown Prosecution Service had decided that there was not enough evidence for a prosecution.

Dorries is an attention seeker who used to write an interesting blog which then turned out to be – in her words – “70 per cent fiction”. And after I wrote about her the other day, messages appeared on her official Twitter feed, since deleted, denouncing me as a “very sick man”, an “inadequate misogynist bully” and more. There was also this withering put-down: “Your book doing really well Andy, 190,000 on Amazon. Maybe you should achieve something in life before you criticise others.” But there is no law saying we have to be nice to each other on Twitter.

However, the claim she makes is that this particular man, who took against her because of her views on abortion, has gone beyond political insults and is actually menacing. I do not know him, and do not follow his tweets and blogs, of which there are many, but can only go by what I am told by people who do. It is a mixed picture: from one side, I hear he is a political obsessive who does not mean to be physically intimidating. From the other, I am told that Nadine Dorries is not the only one to have had her life invaded by him in a frightening manner, and that she is the victim in this story. I do not want to make matters worse, so I’ll shut up about it for now.

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