New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
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Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
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Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

Scottish independence: The choices in a nutshell

By DAVID WOODING

MUCH has been said and written about the break up of the United Kingdom and what it would mean for the people of Scotland and the rest of these islands.

Some have claimed that a fully independent Scotland would be landed with a debt-ridden economy and others have argued over the timing of a referendum and what the question on the ballot paper should be.

Michael Gove (left) with David Wooding

But nobody has brought the key issues into sharper focus than Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In a few off-the-cuff words, he summed up the choices facing voters north of the border. He accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of ducking the big question about independence – and lacking the nerve to call a referendum on full independence.

Scots-born Mr Gove’s unrehearsed words on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning get straight to the point and are worth reading in full.

He said: “We need to have a decisive yes or no question on whether or not the people of Scotland want to be independent or not.

“Alex Salmond has been trying to play a tactical game here in order to strengthen the political position of his party. By doing so, he has avoided and dodged so far some fundamental questions.

“Do the people of Scotland want to have the same level of welfare benefits as the rest of the United Kingdom? Do they want to be part of the same nation that has the British Broadcasting Corporation and a National Health Service?

“Do they want the Royal Navy and the British Army to remain institutions that embody patriotic feeling and sentiment or do they want to sunder and separate them?

“Do they want you and I to be forced to choose between being British and Scottish, to have a narrow, exclusive, ethnic nationalist identity as our only choice or do they believe that we should be plural, multi-cultural, modern and 21st century?

“These are big questions that Alex Salmond has dodged. He shouldn’t have to dodge them for ever.”

Kelvin MacKenzie on Press standards

By DAVID WOODING

KELVIN MacKenzie isn’t one to pull his punches – and was his usual knockabout self when he spoke to the Leveson inquiry on Press standards today.

Love him or loathe him, the former Sun editor knows how to get his point across in concise and often colourful language.

Mr MacKenzie revealed how:

  – HE only checked the source of one story when he was editor of The Sun and it ended up costing him £1 million in libel damages.

– A MOLE hunt launched after a major defence exclusive was chaired by the MI6 colonel  who leaked the story.

– GORDON Brown threatened to “destroy” Rupert Murdoch in a 20-minute phone tirade hours after one of his paper’s endorsed the Tories.

– DAVID Cameron hired ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson only as a gesture of political friendship to the newspaper tycoon.

Mr MacKenzie (pictured left) didn’t mince his words when asked for his assessment of what should be done to reform the British media.

“Nothing,” he declared bluntly.

He said the only new law needed is one to ban “under-talented” MPs from kissing the a**es of newspaper owners.

In a bravura performance, he gave both barrels to David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove over their “gut-wrenching” crawling to Rupert Murdoch. He even tore into Lord Leveson himself.

Mr MacKenzie told how he had suggested Labour MPs should set their mobile phones ringing every time the PM stood up to talk in the Commons – in a jibe at his “potty” decision to hire ex-News of the World boss Andy Coulson as an aide.

Mr MacKenzie gazed around the room and asked: “Where is our great Prime Minister who ordered this ludicrous inquiry?

“After all, the only reason we are all here is due to one man’s action; Cameron’s obsessive a**e-kissing over the years of Rupert Murdoch. Tony Blair was pretty good, as was Brown. But Cameron was the Daddy.

“Such was his obsession with what newspapers said about him – and Rupert had three market leaders – that as party leader he issued all his senior colleagues, especially Michael Gove, with knee pads in order to protect their blue trousers when they genuflected in front of the Special Sun.

Gut-wrenching

“Cameron wanted Rupert onside as he believed, quite wrongly in my view, that The Sun’s endorsement would help him to victory. “When the paper did come out for Cameron the Sun’s sale fell by 40,000 copies that day.

“There was never a party, a breakfast, a lunch, a cuppa or a drink that Cameron and Co would not turn up to in force if The Great Man or his handmaiden Rebekah Brooks was there. There was always a queue to kiss their rings. It was gut-wrenching.”

He added: “Cameron had clearly gone quite potty. And the final proof that he was certifiable was his hiring of my friend Andy Coulson.

“I remember telling anybody who would listen that if I were Brown, every time Cameron stood up in the Commons he should arrange for mobile phones to ring on his side of the House.

“It would have killed Cameron. Nobody took me seriously. And then the phone hacking scandal erupted. Not a scandal of Rupert’s making but the order went out from Cameron: stop the a**e kissing and start the a**e kicking.”

Turning to “this bloody inquiry” chaired by Lord Leveson (pictured right), he continued: “God help me that free speech comes down to the thought process of a judge who couldn’t win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion and more recently robbing the Christmas Island veterans of a substantial pay-off for being told simply to turn away from nuclear test blasts in the Fifties. It’s that bad.

“I have been forced by what sounds like the threat of a jail term to give a witness statement to this inquiry.

“The questions not only made me laugh through their ignorance but also that a subject as serious as free speech should be dealt with in this manner.

“Question seven basically wanted to know if an editor knew the sources of many of the stories. To be frank, I didn’t bother during my 13 years with one important exception. With this particular story I got in the news editor, the legal director, the two reporters covering it and the source himself on a Friday afternoon.

“We spent two hours going through the story and I decided that it was true and we should publish it on Monday. It caused a worldwide sensation. And four months later The Sun was forced to pay out a record £1 million libel damages to Elton John for wholly untrue rent boy allegations. So much for checking a story, I never did it again. Basically my view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in.

“How will this inquiry change that? Question six also deals with sources and I disclosed another story that happened during my 13 years as editor of The Sun. That morning we had led on a Ministry of Defence story revealing some kind of secret we felt our readers should know.

“The reporter concerned came in and said there was problem. No 10 had gone nuts and an official inquiry was starting into who had leaked the story with a colonel from MI6 being drafted in to head it. The reporter told me the MoD were determined to get to the bottom of it but it was not all bad news. Why was that I asked.

“Because the colonel heading the inquiry was the bloke who gave us the story in the first place. How will this inquiry change that? Yes there was criminal cancer at the News of The World. Yes, there were editorial and management errors as the extent of the cancer began to be revealed. But why do we need an inquiry of this kind?

Roared

“There are plenty of laws to cover what went on. After all, 16 people have already been arrested and my bet is that the number may well go to 30 once police officers are rounded up. Almost certainly they will face conspiracy laws, corruption laws, false accounting laws. There are plenty of laws that may have been broken. Lord Leveson knows them all by heart.

“Supposing these arrests didn’t come from the newspaper business. Supposing they were baggage handlers at Heathrow nicking from luggage, or staff at Primark carrying out a VAT swindle, or more likely, a bunch or lawyers involved in a mortgage fraud. Would such an inquiry have ever been set up? Of course not.”

Mr MacKenzie said Mr Coulson’s appointment at Number 10 was down to the PM’s personal lack of judgment.

“I don’t blame Andy for taking the job,” he said. “I do blame Cameron for offering it.

“It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy’s head to Rupert Murdoch. If it wasn’t that then Cameron is a bloody idiot. A couple of phone calls from Central Office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World.

“Rupert told me an incredible story. He was in his New York office on the day that The Sun decided to endorse Cameron for the next election. That day was important to Brown as his speech to the party faithful at the Labour party conference would have been heavily reported in the papers.

“Of course the endorsement blew Brown’s speech off the front page. That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and in Rupert’s words: ‘Roared at me for 20 minutes’.

“At the end Brown said: ‘You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company.’ That endorsement on that day was a terrible error.

“I can’t believe it was Rupert’s idea. Strangely, he is quite a cautious man. Whoever made that decision should hang their head in shame. I point the finger at a management mixture of Rebekah and James Murdoch.

“The point of my anecdotes is to show that this inquiry should decide there is nothing wrong with the Press, that we should enshrine free speech in Cameron’s planned Bill of Rights and accept the scandal was simply a moment in time when low-grade criminality took over a newspaper.

“If anything, the only recommendation that should be put forward by Leveson is one banning by law over- ambitious and under-talented politicians from giving house room to proprietors who are seeking commercial gain from their contacts. In tabloid terms, a**e kissing will be illegal. Should have an interesting passage through Parliament.

“Do that and you will have my blessing – and I suspect the blessing from Rupert Murdoch, too.”

See also: “Keep taking the Tabloids” – this page, October 6. 2011.

Follow me on Twitter: @davidwooding