Andy McSmith's Diary: Some may hunker after Jean-Claude Juncker for European Commission president, but don’t make a joke of it


Andy McSmith
Monday 10 March 2014 22:35 GMT
Jean-Claude Juncker was selected in a conference in Dublin last week as the candidate of the EPP
Jean-Claude Juncker was selected in a conference in Dublin last week as the candidate of the EPP (AP)

There is an important political contest under way, though it is not gripping the British public. It is over who will succeed Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission. For the first time, the political groups in the European Parliament are nominating candidates ahead of its May election. Jean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, was selected in a conference in Dublin last week as the candidate of the EPP, the grouping that brings together most of the EU’s centre-right parties apart from the Conservatives, which makes him a front-runner.

Jon Worth, a political blogger, posted a mocked-up picture of Juncker on Twitter showing a mournful, bespectacled human face imposed on the body of a poodle held on a lead by Angela Merkel. He also started a parody Twitter account, @JC_Juncker, which collected 300 followers in two days, until somebody blocked it.

Worth has appealed, to no avail. “The account has now been suspended for more time than it was actually running, and this leads me to smell a rat – how did someone manage to get the account suspended so fast, while I am still awaiting a response from Twitter to my appeal?” he asks. “Does the fact that Twitter had a stall at the EPP Congress in Dublin have something to do with it I wonder?”

The moral is: do not joke about Herr Juncker. He is just not funny.

Tax-funded misogyny

David Burrowes, the Tory MP for Enfield Southgate, has a page of his website proudly declaring that “David Burrowes MP is supporting an international campaign to press for women’s rights in Afghanistan”. It is illustrated by a photograph of the MP holding a large sign saying: “I support Afghan women’s rights.”

I wonder if he was assisted in this admirable cause by his ex-researcher, Stewart Green, who has just had to resign after the North London News revealed he had authored a series of posts on Facebook about women. “This country has been a gradual decline southwards towards the dogs ever since we started cow-towing [sic] to the cretinous pseudo-equality demand of these whineging [sic] imbeciles,” said one. Another suggested: “Quite a few of these women need a good slap round the face.”

I am assured these are not the official views of the Conservative Party. They are the private opinions of someone paid by the taxpayer to work for them.

A lack of faith in Boris

Michael Portillo, the politician turned television commentator, does not have a high opinion of Boris Johnson, the journalist turned politician. Appearing on BBC’s This Week programme, Portillo suggested that if David Cameron were to vacate the Conservative leadership, the party would do better to turn to George Osborne, who has been at the heart of government decision-making, rather than Johnson, “who has never taken a decision about anything”. When Andrew Neil accused him of having a “visceral hatred” of the Mayor, Portillo demurred: “That’s an exaggeration.”

In the 1990s, a large part of the Tory party invested their hopes in Portillo as their future leader and political saviour, as some now do in Johnson, but bad luck and too many enemies blocked Portillo’s way. His star was still very much in the ascent when he first met Johnson, then a Daily Telegraph hack.

He described the occasion in the Sunday Times: “I marked him down as unserious. He came to interview me as Secretary of State for Defence, and arrived 45 minutes late... he had the decency to look flushed and sweaty, but also gave the impression that I should find his shambolic performance endearing. I pretended to do so.”

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