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Rats in a Sack: Author Horowitz’s novel approach to spoiling son

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Rishi Sunak, Nigel Farage, Ukip and more

Anthony Horowitz (Photo by Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images)

The crime writer Anthony Horowitz, a rare author who has confessed to Tory leanings, didn’t mince his words when interviewed on Times Radio this week.

“I will not vote Conservative at the next election… I’m more inclined, I think, to spoil my ballot paper, which I think a lot of people may do this time around,” he said. On Brexit, he added: “I still remain convinced it is one of the disasters of my life.”

It’s a message unlikely to be amplified online by Brexiteer Rishi Sunak’s head of strategic communications and digital… Cass Horowitz, son of Anthony!

How are those strategic communications going, by the way? This week Sunak appeared on a phone-in on cabbies’ favourite LBC, taking questions from members of the public.

“Louise is in the Rhondda Valley, you’re through to the prime minister,” said host Nick Ferrari as one caller joined the chat. “Go ahead, Louise.” Louise said: “Good morning Nick, good morning prime minister.”

To which Sunak responded: “Hi Rhonda!”.

Hats off to the organisers behind an attempt to break the Guinness world record for most terrible people in the same room last week.

The bid included Liz Truss, Lee Anderson, Richard Tice, Mark Francois, Andrea Jenkyns, Ian Paisley Jr, David Starkey, Arron Banks, Toby Young, Paul Nuttall (remember him!), GB News financier Paul Marshall, Matt Goodwin, Jim ‘Nick Nick’ Davidson, Harry Cole, Paul Staines and even Donald Trump (the latter, alas, only via a video message).

The event, at the distinctly elite-tweaking Boisdale in London’s Belgravia was, of course, Nigel Farage’s 60th birthday party. The entertainment included a lifesize ice sculpture of Farage, which melted swiftly in the manner of the Nazi at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and a mass row-the-boat to Oops Upside Your Head, thus proving that it is possible to have a party even worse than Reform UK.

You can be forgiven for not having spotted the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference last month, but while it quickly vanished from the public’s attention, the passes for those attending did so literally.

The Lib Dems last year, for entirely admirable environmental reasons, switched from laminated passes in lanyards to paper ones. These, however, had the problem of the pictures on them quickly fading, making them difficult for security staff to check.

At the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth last year delegates were told it wasn’t because of the cheap material used but the resort town’s salt sea air. An excuse which didn’t quite wash when exactly the same thing happened last month in York, 40 miles from the sea.

Voters in Mid Cheshire were baffled when leaflets dropped through their letterboxes from Charles Fifield, Conservative candidate for the newly-created seat in this year’s general election.

“Charles is campaigning for step-free access at Norwich Railway Station,” boasted the headline. A laudable goal – although quite why constituents should be bothered about a city in East Anglia, 165 miles away, was unclear.

Fifield actually meant Northwich, which is in his prospective constituency. “I did see an early draft and I asked for a change to the photo caption which did not have the station name but sadly I did not see the final draft prior to printing due to time constraints and for that I am sorry,” he told Cheshire Live, very much throwing his campaign staff under the train.

The scrapping among the parties to the right of the Conservatives continues, with Ukip announcing that Anne Marie Waters, far-right activist, sometime Tommy Robinson colleague and now Ukip’s justice spokeswoman, is to contest Hartlepool at the general election.

Waters is not local to Hartlepool – she’s from Ireland via south-east London – but the constituency is no coincidence. It’s the one Reform UK leader Richard Tice is standing in, and which the former Brexit Party feel they have a genuine, if outside, chance of winning.

Reform have spent 18 months spurning advances from Ukip to “unite the right” and bring the various disparate forces together. Ukip won’t win Hartlepool, but they hope to get enough votes to ruin Tice’s night. Play nicely, kids!

Liz Kershaw, former Radio 1 DJ turned Brexit-and-Boris-backing GB News talking head, was fuming this week after receiving a missive from the Department for Work and Pensions.

“Today I got a letter inviting me to CLAIM my State Pension from July when I turn 66,” she wrote on Twitter/X. “Why do I need to claim it/beg for it? Payment should be automatic. I’ve paid into it for 46 years since 1st job in 1978. But it says ‘You will not get any State Pension unless you claim it’.”

Fellow right wing commentators chipped in, with Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine saying “She’s got a point”. But, er, she hadn’t.

State pensions have to be claimed because they can be deferred, allowing people to continue working and then get a larger weekly pension later in life. But why bother yourself with details when it can be yet another thing to froth about on GB News!

The final whistle has been blown on the ill-tempered match being played by the two biggest beasts on the Times’ sports desk.

Last month your correspondent noted the war being raged between star columnist Martin Samuel and chief football writer Henry Winter in their respective columns over the government’s plans for an independent football regulator (Samuel loathes the idea, Winter loves it).

Now it’s over – Winter has been made redundant by the paper. As if to make clear who’d won, on the same day Winter made the announcement on Twitter/X, the Times devoted a page to an article by Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, on why such a regulator would “reduce our competitiveness and weaken the incredible appeal of the English game”.

Meanwhile, among the familiar names commiserating with Winter on social media – Gary Lineker, Emily Maitlis and sundry sports hacks – was one surprise. “Absurd. Best there is,” wrote Rochdale MP George Galloway, to which Winter replied: “Thanks George, funny old game!”

News that Labour plans to boot the remaining hereditary peers out of the House of Lords if and when they make it into government had Daniel Hannan fuming – because, he argues in his Daily Telegraph column, the hereditaries are actually the most democratic element of the second chamber.

“Abolishing the only democratic element in the House of Lords – the hereditaries, as well as being the hardest-working group in the chamber, are the most representative, even numbering one or two Leave voters in their ranks – will look like what it is: displacement activity,” writes the Tory peer and so-called brain of Brexit.

Nurse! The smelling salts!

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