Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Westminster Diary

Welcome to our round-up of snippets from the corridors of power.


By ancient tradition MPs start speculating about the outcome of the next election about 15 minutes after the last one. But there's added spice to this hallowed parliamentary pastime at the moment because the opinion polls suggest there could well be a hung parliament with no overall majority. And now, as well as the endlessly fascinating question of who might then do a deal with who, to form a government, there's a new strand of gossip.

Che Guevara and Lord Tyler
Che and Tyler: Separated at birth?

Hung parliaments raise the prospect of MPs being condemned to hang around for endless late night sittings because their party whips can never be entirely sure that deals done over particular votes will stick. But for those who want the Commons to carry more clout, there could now be a sweetener.

Might fed-up senior backbenchers gang up to leverage more power for the House itself out of a perhaps weak and shaky coalition government? There's an increasingly organised group of senior figures, ex-cabinet ministers and possible future Speakers of the Commons. They meet in distant committee rooms for dry sounding seminars about constitutional reform, and grumble about the wavering of Gordon Brown's commitment to giving parliament more power.

In a hung parliament they might seize their's certainly being discussed behind the scenes, and Lord Paul Tyler, a former Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the Commons, is one of the unlikely Che Guevaras in a sort of Parliamentary Liberation Army...its demands would include the a Commons vote to confirm any government and Prime Minister that emerged from coalition talks, direct elections among MPs for members of select committees (something which would horrify the whips) and clipping the wings of the government business managers who currently decide what the Commons discusses and votes on.

Maybe it's all talk - but if this rag tag army of Westminster guerillas does suddenly boil out of the political jungle, you read it here first....


Remember Olympic hero Chris Hoy's very funny comment when asked "What does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?" "Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse," said the triple gold medal winner. For some reason this came to mind when we stumbled across an apparently self-penned biography of Hazel Blears on the DCLG website entitled "my background". "Hazel Blears came to Communities and Local Government from the Cabinet Office," writes the diminutive local government secretary, adding "previously Hazel Blears was Minister of State for Policing" and, finally, "Hazel Blears is married and lives in Salford. Her hobbies include dancing, riding her motorbike and gardening". Yes, but what does Hazel Blears think of Hazel Blears?

Eighty two MPs of all parties are now calling for Ed Stourton to be reinstated as a presenter on Radio 4's Today programme. The MPs, led by Labour's Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, have signed a Commons motion, calling on the BBC Trust to investigate the decision, claiming the journalist was only told of his "sacking" by a Sunday newspaper. They say the broadcaster "commands huge respect for the undoubted impartiality and intellectual rigour" he brings to the programme. The MPs point out that Jonathan Ross has been retained by the same BBC management team that "dispensed" with Ed Stourton, and call on them to bring him back "forthwith".

Ian Hislop and Lembit Opik
No more mocking the media for Mr Opik, right

Lembit Opik is letting it all hang out. Boldly going where no politician has gone before (except himself), the Lib Dem MP is reprising his weekly Daily Sport column. Lembit told the BBC: "The brief they gave me was to report from Parliament in an accessible way. I would say the people who read the Daily Sport are probably more normal than the people who run the country. It's a real privilege to do the column. The Daily Sport is genuinely a libertarian paper." That may be the case, Lembit, but is Friday big enough for two hard-hitting/incisive columns/diaries? Remember, we know where you work...


Tory MP Ann Winterton asked a Commons question about impoverished Equitable Life policyholders. Going beyond the usual politician's concern over those able to vote, she asked: "What are we to say to our constituents, some of whom have already died?" Those good folk of her Congleton seat who have passed away, ceased to be and left this mortal coil need not be concerned, it seems. Commons leader Harriet Harman replied: "As to the question of what she should say to her constituents - she should say the [government] statement [on the issue] will be in January." Will an ouija board be provided?

Vince Cable
Godfather of economics: Show Vince some respect - or sleep wiv da fishes

Does MP stand for meteorology-proof? Spotted walking around Westminster this week, with just a shirt, tie and suit jacket (oh, OK, socks, shoes and trousers too) oblivious to the freezing gales whipping off the Thames: Tory business spokesman Alan Duncan and former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Perhaps peers are more in tune with the public on this one. The Conservative Earl of Onslow was seen strutting around in a huge coat and furry hat that would not have been challenged even by the weather at the Battle of Stalingrad. Even Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable's rakishly mafioso fedora looked feeble by comparison.

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