Village people: 23/01/10

By Andy McSmith
Saturday 23 January 2010 01:00

Hamas ruins attempt to shake off 'Donorgate'

*David Abrahams, the Newcastle property developer who caused a rumpus two years ago by secretly donating money to the Labour Party through proxies, has cropped up in the news unexpectedly.

He has been in the Middle East, talking to Hamas. He claimed to have won a significant concession, about which he will brief the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, when he is back in the UK.

If Mr Abrahams had really found a way to get Hamas to recognise Israel, he would be remembered for that long after "Donorgate" is forgotten, but sadly it seems he was carried by innocent optimism, because it did not take long for Hamas to deny that there was to be any change in its line. Shame.

"We can all look for good in people and we can all look for bad in people. I always look for the good," Mr Abrahams told the Jerusalem Post.

Splitting hairs: MacShane gets personal

n "I am glad to know that they still talk about things that matter in the House of Commons," says Harry Mount, who wrote a popular book about the joys of learning Latin. He was referring to this extract from Tuesday's Hansard:

Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): ... There is no country keener on referendums than Switzerland.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Referenda.

Mr MacShane: Referendums. It is a gerund.

Mr Fabricant: It is a gerundive.

Mr MacShane: It is a gerund. Keep your hair on.

The "keep your hair on" bit was a little cruel, because Mr Fabricant is famous for having a topping of blond hair which a lot of people think is not real. Thus provoked, he went to consult a dictionary, returning to demand that the Deputy Speaker, Sylvia Heal, call MacShane to order for misleading the House. She refused to make a ruling.

But, should you need to ask, Mr Mount confirms that a gerund has no plural form in Latin, therefore if "referendum" were a gerund, you could not say "referenda", but since it is in fact a gerundive, "referenda" is correct. Correct, if a little pretentious. But I expect you already knew that.

The fresh-faced adviser with a vicious bite

*Congratulations to David Taylor on his appointment as special adviser to the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain. You can see why a cabinet minister might want to keep him on side ahead of a general election.

Mr Taylor may look young, but he was previously used as a Blairite attack dog. When a website dedicated to rubbishing Clare Short for attacking Tony Blair began attracting traffic six years ago, people were astonished to learn that its creator was an 18-year-old student from Wrexham named David Taylor.

His other web creations include a site set up in 2006 to defend Blair against those plotting to get him out of Downing Street. But last year, just before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, which killed 96 Liverpool supporters, Taylor posted this on his website: "Who do I hate most – Chelsea or Liverpool? Liverpool, obviously. You'll never walk again." That last sentence was a sick chant that was directed at Liverpool supporters after the incident. If Mr Hain is wise, he will keep a close watch over his new employee.

Need to phone a friend, Mr Blair? Try Mr Bercow

*Tony Blair is a bit short of allies as he prepares for his appearance in front of the Iraq inquiry but if he needs to phone a friend on Friday, there is always the Commons Speaker. John Bercow told students at Woodhouse College in Finchley on Tuesday that he did not regret supporting the war, adding: "I don't think that Tony Blair is a liar either. I don't believe he intended to misinform on weapons of mass destruction. He would not have any reason to.

"Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iraqis and was a danger to the world. The Iraqis are better off without him."

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