Andy McSmith's Diary: The troubled peer behind Vladimir Putin’s Nobel nomination

Our man in Westminster

Andy McSmith
Tuesday 15 October 2013 20:36 BST

The Russian news agency, Novosti, reports that Vladimir Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a British parliamentarian, Peter Truscott, whose wife is Russian. It is four years since this previously obscure peer suddenly became news, when he was caught in a newspaper sting apparently agreeing to accept a £72,000 payment to amend legislation. His case went to the Privileges Committee, who suspended him for six months, which they were told was the stiffest penalty they could impose. He and another miscreant were the first peers to be banned from Parliament since Oliver Cromwell's time.

Lord Truscott refused to meet the Privileges Committee, because he did not like the way he had been questioned by a sub-committee, but wrote to them complaining: “My wife, whose uncle spent time in the Gulag, can't escape a feeling of déja-vu. 1930s Russia. Stalin is in power. Political committees decide an individual's fate on the basis of ill-founded allegations.”

Since his suspension ended, he has been back in the Lords, where he is entitled to claim £300 a day attendance allowance. In the year ending 30 May, he collected £38,700, tax free, plus expenses. That is not quite what used to happen to Joe Stalin's victims.

In Russia, they have their own way of answering allegations of corruption against people in positions of trust, under the rule of the President whom Lord Truscott so admires. In 2008, the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky courageously listed the gangsters and public officials who had allegedly stolen millions from the Russian taxpayer. He was taken to Butyrki prison, where he died. More recently, one of those named by Magnitsky, Pavel Karpov, made an attempt in this country to silence Magnitsky's former business associate, the hedge fund manager, Bill Browder, by bringing a libel case against him, but the case was struck off out on the grounds that it is not a matter for a British court.

Another step on a remarkable journey

In a brief ceremony, Doreen Lawrence, stepped forward dressed in a ceremonial red robe with white rabbit fur collar, flanked by the former Cabinet minister Paul Boateng, and by the Liberal Democrat Floella Benjamin, to take her place officially as the newly ennobled Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, in Jamaica. There was an abnormally loud cheer when at the close of the ceremony she shook the hand of the Lord Speaker, Baroness d'Souza. It has been a long journey since that day in April 1993 when her teenage son was cold-bloodedly murdered on a street in Eltham.

Karl Marx grave is just the beginning

The furore which the Daily Mail whipped up over Ed Miliband's Marxist father, Ralph, has stimulated a renewed ripple of interest in the original Karl Marx. The Daily Mail, as I understand, argues that a Marxist is by definition a person who hates Britain and all that makes us British, and yet Marx himself chose to live and die here. I am indebted to a new book by Ann Treneman, Finding The Plot, a tourist guide to graves of the famous, for a new piece of Karl Marx trivia: he has not one gravestone, but two. The first was a modest slab placed in Highgate Cemetery by his tiny band of admirers when he died in 1883. The second is a massive monument commissioned by the British Communist Party in 1954, when Marxists ruled a vast land mass from Berlin to Hanoi.

Money on Dorries speaks volumes

Ladbrokes, who have been taking bets on who will win the election for Deputy Speaker today, report that just one punter has put money on the wayward, self-publicising MP Nadine Dorries. Whoever it was risked 50p, at 33-1.

Clegg falls foul of a scorpion question

As Nick Clegg took questions from MPs, his worst moment came when Peter Bone, an oddball right wing Tory, pleaded for a televised debate between the party leaders at the next election. He added: “Will you ensure that the fourth party is allowed to take part in the debate so that you would be able to speak?”

Thrown off balance, Mr Clegg replied that he loved that “sting in the tail.”

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