Andy McSmith's Diary: Who needs a food bank when you’ve got fancy restaurants?


Andy McSmith
Tuesday 25 March 2014 21:14 GMT

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Liam Marshall-Ascough, a Conservative member of Crawley Borough Council in West Sussex, was once styled the “Virgin politician” because of his day job as a member of Virgin Airlines’ cabin crew. A virgin he may be, but innocent he is not. He has made his mark by pushing through stricter rules for getting on Crawley’s housing register, to keep Romanians and Bulgarians off it, and has obstructed a plan to introduce a food bank in the town hall, because he frankly does not think it is necessary.

“People aren’t in poverty in terms of going without food,” he tells the latest edition of the Crawley News. “You try booking a restaurant in Crawley on a Friday or Saturday night. You can’t do it.”

An ambitious, youngish Tory who thinks food banks are used by the same people who to eat out at restaurants: I predict a great political career in the making.

The root of Todd’s problems

“From an early age, my grandfather instilled in me one key value: never, ever forget your roots,” Bianca Todd announced in The Guardian newspaper earlier this month, as she accused Ed Miliband of forgetting his.

In the 1980s, her grandfather, Ron Todd, was the most powerful trade unionist in the land, the general-secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, whose massive block vote was the principle obstacle in the path of Neil Kinnock’s efforts to steer Labour into the centre ground. Todd’s granddaughter is a leading light in the Unite union and of Left Unity, which seeks to pull together the disparate groups left of the Labour Party.

An employment tribunal last week awarded three former staff of a Leicestershire youth organisation, Children: Homes, Advice and Teaching Ltd (C:HAT Room), more than £2,000 in unpaid wages and other monies owed to them. They had worked for C:HAT Room for about six months without being given contracts. The company’s head of service is Bianca Todd – she who never, ever forgets her roots.

Right result for Bone

Last month, I wrote that the Tory right was at risk of losing its most far-out MP, Peter Bone, because of a police investigation into a dispute he has had with Northamptonshire County Council over the cost of caring for his mother-in-law. That danger has passed. The police are not pressing charges because “no element of dishonesty could be proved”, though there is still a separate unresolved civil case.

Men behaving badly

With their popularity nationally bumping along near the bottom, the Liberal Democrats have not been helped at a local level by the way some of their councillors have been behaving. Stephen Fenwick, a member of Sutton Council, has pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated assault on a barman in central London, after he had been knocking back the booze during a football match. He was given a year’s conditional discharge, has been disowned by the Sutton Lib Dems, and according to the Epsom Guardian, he is banned from several pubs. But he is still a councillor.

So is Peter Brock, elected as a Liberal Democrat to Yeovil Town Council, where David Laws is the local MP. Brock was sentenced to carry out a 12-month community order after he admitted stealing £1,231 from the Royal British Legion. If the sentence had been harsher, he would have been automatically disqualified. As it is, the town council has no power to compel him to resign.

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