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Rats in a Sack: RIP Ronnie, the MP for fetishes

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Lee Anderson, Brendan Clarke-Smith, Andy Coulson and more

Ex-Labour Party MP for Blyth Ronnie Campbell (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

RIP Ronnie Campbell, the Brexit-backing former Labour MP for Blyth Valley, who passed away last month but whose obituaries have just been published.

In 2008 the organisers of National Fetish Day wrote to him asking for his support and cheekily asking if he had any fetishes himself.

Alas, the keen racing fan misunderstood the word, thinking “fetish” meant people who were “worried”. He thus responded: “I must have a thousand but, hand on heart, I couldn’t tell which is the most important one. Probably the horses.”

Congratulations to Veronica Oakeshott, selected this week as the Labour candidate for the new seat of Bicester and Woodstock at the coming general election.

If the name sounds familiar – yes, she is the sister of Isabel Oakeshott, the right-wing “journalist” and partner of Reform UK leader Richard Tice. Christmas dinner must be a right old riot in that family!

Meanwhile, how does Lee Anderson, the new Member of Parliament for Reform UK, really feel about Tice, his new leader, colleague and chum?

In – checks calendar – January, Anderson described Tice as a “pound shop Nigel Farage”, telling him to “pipe down” in his attacks on the government. “I get on with Richard reasonably well, but I would say this – he’s not Nigel Farage, he’s not the leader that Nigel Farage was,” Anderson told GB News, which conveniently employs all three of them as presenters.

“He’s just saying ridiculous things,” he added. How nice of him to completely change his mind in – checks calendar again – two months!

Richard Tice is not the only thing about which Anderson has changed his mind. In 2020 he voted for the backbench Recall of MPs (Change of Party Affiliation) Bill, which would have required an MP to call a by-election if they defected.

So presumably he’ll be doing precisely that now he’s made the switch to Reform? Nope – Anderson says to do so would be “irresponsible”.

Another Tory headbanger said to be on the whips’ defection watch is Brendan Clarke-Smith, MP for Bassetlaw, hardline Brexiteer and opponent of food banks (“a political weapon”) and England footballers protesting racism.

This week Clarke-Smith tweeted out “My statement can be found here” with a link which led to… the video for Rick Astley’s 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up. A phenomenon called Rickrolling, briefly popular in the mid-noughties, kids.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has been forced to give up his regular show on cabbies’ favourite LBC by Labour head honcho Sue Gray, who wants the never-knowingly-shy Lammy to concentrate on the job in hand.

But if Keir Starmer follows former Tory spinner Andy Coulson’s advice, Lammy won’t be moving into 1 Carlton Gardens. Because the ex-News of the World editor thinks the Labour leader should appoint… David Cameron!

“Lord Cameron being appointed as Sir Keir’s foreign secretary is not an entirely stupid idea,” Coulson writes in London’s Evening Standard of what is objectively an entirely stupid idea. “There’s no doubt that with his sure-footed interventions, Lord Cameron has had a positive impact on our reputation on the foreign stage. His appointment has elevated us in the geopolitical narrative, bringing benefits both strategic and optic.”

It’s that visionary decision-making which has served Coulson so well!

Cameron, incidentally, doesn’t make use of 1 Carlton Gardens, the £25m grace-and-favour home normally reserved for the foreign secretary. Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, has lived there since November 2021 following his separation from Daily Mail hack Sarah Vine.

Cameron magnanimously allowed his former friend to stay on after his appointment, despite the pair having barely spoken since Gove went back on his promise not to campaign heavily for Brexit in the referendum campaign. Lammy is unlikely to allow him to keep squatting.

Vine herself was in fine form this week, entirely predictably on the issue of the Princess of Wales and the Photoshopped picture.

At the weekend she was delighted by the release of the image, treating Mail readers to her views on how, as the headline on her column said: “The picture of Kate kills the absurd conspiracy theories.”

Roll on three days and things had changed. “There’s only one way for William and Kate to put an end to all the cruel speculation: Come clean about what’s REALLY going on – or risk drowning in a quagmire of their own making,” demanded the puff for her next column on the Mail’s front cover.

“Of course, all this could mean nothing. But it could also mean something,” she said. “And that’s the real problem here. As much as I would love to think that, as is so often the case in life, this is more cock-up than conspiracy, at every turn the combined cack-handedness of Kensington Palace and, let’s be honest, the demeanour of the Prince and Princess of Wales themselves conspire to make one think otherwise.”

Which looks – just a tad – like a conspiracy theory.

Back in 2021, things weren’t going too well for Darren Grimes, Brexit campaigner, GB News host and right-wing rentaquote.

“Next week I leave London and move back home,” he wrote on social media at the time. “When I moved out of my family home, I never anticipated I’d ever go back. Yet here we are, three national lockdowns on, as just one of the millions of forgotten Brits whose mental health has deteriorated markedly over these 12 months.”

It would take a heart of stone not to feel sympathy. So when figures were published this week showing more than a fifth of working-age adults in the UK are deemed not to be actively looking for work, with a rise of cases of poor mental health in those in their early 20s believed to be a factor, he must have emphasised, surely?

Nah. “According to the depressing figures, over 9 million people of working age can’t be bothered to get a job these days,” he tweeted. “That’s almost a quarter of the potential workforce who would rather sit around all day scoffing crisps and whining about having ‘mental health issues’ rather than contributing anything useful to society.”

Who was responsible for the Budget? Some speculated it was written in Number 10 rather than 11, with a picture circulating widely on social media showing Rishi Sunak literally looking over Jeremy Hunt’s shoulder as he wrote it.

But according to Harvey Jones, the Daily Express’ personal finance editor, it was somebody else entirely. Under the headline ‘Jeremy Hunt is Chancellor in name only. This shadowy figure is really dictating our taxes’, he revealed… it’s Rachel Reeves!

“The Conservative Party is no longer setting the UK’s tax and spending policy. Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is now the one pulling the strings,” he harrumphed.

“Hunt… even sounded like a Labour chancellor, saying it was only right that ‘those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share’

“Why wait for a Labour government? We have one already.”

Nurse! The smelling salts!

Meanwhile, over at the Daily Mail, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries has been bemoaning how climate change spoiled her recent skiing trip in the French Alps.

“My preference is for the longer, meandering pistes set in the treeline. They may set your legs on fire but the scenery makes up for it,” she complained.

“Sadly, there’s been little or no snow to be found at such lower altitudes in recent years. This winter we were again forced higher up the mountain where slopes are narrower, steeper — and, of course, busier. It was a fun week, but if the scarcity of snow in Europe continues, then I fear my skiing days are numbered.”

If only there was something she could have done to help. Alas, analysis by the website TheyWorkForYou showed that, in her 18 years in Parliament, Dorries “generally voted against measures to prevent climate change”.

Responding to a question about the Welsh Government’s running of the NHS in Parliament this week, Wales secretary David TC Davies said of Tory MP for Wrexham Sarah Atherton: “The honourable lady is absolutely right to raise concerns about the level of healthcare being provided to her constituents in South Wales.”

Wrexham – quite possibly the country’s most famous city internationally now as a result of a Disney+ show about its football club – is, of course, in North Wales.

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