John Laird, the Ulster Unionist peer caught in a newspaper sting, is going to have to manage without free car parking and access to Parliament’s subsidised bars and dining rooms for four months, after the Lords Privileges Committee found that he had “demonstrated a clear willingness” to use his position for financial gain. Brian Mackenzie, former Durham Chief Constable and a Labour peer, has also been suspended – in his case, for six months.
If they were MPs, this disgrace would put an end to their political careers at the next election, but these two will be entitled to return in 2014 to enjoy the facilities they have abused.
Lord Laird may not find many friends awaiting him, because the Committee report, published yesterday, gives a graphic insight into his contempt for his fellow peers, as shown in a joke he related to the undercover reporters from The Sunday Times: “We were having a debate about domestic theft and there was nobody in the bloody House except us and a few others. The next night we’re having a debate about the age of consent for homosexuals and the place is full, absolutely bloody standing room only. Homosexuals and foxes are the only things that fill the bloody place. So I said to this elderly guy: ‘Why is it that yesterday we talked about domestic theft – nobody here; this day we’re talking about homosexuals and the place if full?’ He said, ‘There’s a damn sight more buggers here than there are burglars’.”
Oh, my aching sides.
As the North Korean people struggle to get through the day, wondering what the execution of their leader’s uncle means for them, British diplomats in South Korea are working on a plan to bring relief. They are trying to clinch a deal that will allow drama, science and nature programmes produced by the BBC to be shown on North Korean television. “This has the potential to expose significant numbers of North Koreans to aspects of the outside world,” the Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire told MPs.
And yet, some MPs thought that old costume dramas and David Attenborough documentaries are not the weapons with which to combat one of the most repressive and erratic tyrannies in history. The Tory MP Fiona Bruce wants the BBC World Service to start broadcasting news in Korean, to repeat the BBC’s success in getting through to people living under Soviet rule.
All the PM’s favourite films
On hearing about the death of Peter O’Toole, David Cameron tweeted: “His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning.” Yet as recently as October 2011, Cameron told the London Evening Standard that All The President’s Men, based on the Watergate expose, was his favourite film. Can you have two favourite films? Or is it a U-turn?
No, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn flak from across the world by refusing to go to Nelson Mandela’s memorial, on the grounds that the Israeli state could not afford the cost of an aircraft and security. Those who fear that this means Israel is flat broke will be relieved to hear there are some items Netanyahu believes his government can afford, including a new aircraft for the exclusive use of the Prime Minister – whose name, by the way, is Benjamin Netanyahu – and the President. He also believes it can afford a new building for the office of the Prime Minister – that is Benjamin Netanyahu, again – and provide a new official residence for the Prime Minister – yep, still Benjamin Netanyahu. The cost would be about £135m, but his own Ministry of Finance has objected.
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