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Rats in a Sack: The GB News pundit and the puppet PM

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at George Galloway, David Maddox, Lee Anderson and more

Margaret Thatcher from the satirical television show Spitting Image (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Piers Pottinger, PR man and now GB News talking head, was on the channel this week to talk about Margaret Thatcher, with whom his former firm worked.

Demonstrating the former PM’s tough treatment of her cabinet, he told an anecdote of when Thatcher’s top team joined her for dinner at the Ritz. “They were taking the order for the main course and they all ordered beef or lamb or fish, and the waiter said to Margaret, ‘and the vegetables?’. She said ‘they’ll have the same as me!,” he chortled.

A delightful story, only slightly ruined by the fact it didn’t happen in real life but was in fact a famous sketch in 1980s comedy show Spitting Image. Perhaps Pottinger also has an anecdote about a friend who fell through a bar after it was opened while he was eyeing up a pair of women!

“This is for Gaza!,” cried much-travelled new MP for Rochdale George Galloway as he won the by-election last month.

How unfortunate, then, that when MPs debated an Urgent Question on Gaza in the House of Commons this week, Galloway was nowhere to be seen.

When ex-Mail editor Geordie Greig joined the Independent as editor-in-chief, many of the website’s predominantly young, left-leaning staff were nervous – and Greig is a liberal remainer. What to make, then, of the man set to be their new political editor?

David Maddox, moving from, is a firm Brexiteer and fan of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, fond of hurling “Remoaner” and “Brexit-hating lefties” insults. Just last month he was in the US for the hard-right CPAC conference where he got to meet his hero Trump and filed a piece so fawning it resembled a teenager encountering Taylor Swift.

“There he was, the 45th President of the USA with his hand outstretched”, fanboyed Maddox. “[Trump advisor Jason] Miller introduced me, and Trump replied, ‘I know the name, I have read you’. It was just three minutes, but how did I find the real Donald Trump? He was gracious, polite, softly spoken, made you feel comfortable and welcome.

“The Trump I met was not the monster many would like you to believe he is or the powerful figure his supporters see. He was a very pleasant and hugely charismatic man. After three years of trying I was not disappointed when I met the real Donald Trump.”

The Independent‘s slogan used to be ‘It is. Are you?’. Not any more with Maddox running its politics desk!

New Reform MP Lee Anderson retweeted the anti-Brexit Best For Britain group this week after they clarified an article they had published about his departure from the Labour Party in 2018. “Worth a RT,” he wrote. “Before you tweet think carefully about the facts.”

Too true! Something Anderson found out last year when he agreed to pay £1,870 to the British Medical Association strike fund after reposting an article from MailOnline suggesting that Tom Dolphin, a doctor, had claimed payment from the NHS while taking industrial action. Dolphin, however, was not on strike but was a consultant covering the shift of a junior doctor who was. Think carefully about those facts, kids.

Anderson spent a day at the end of last week touring his constituency by open-top bus, his defection from the Tories to Reform UK apparently warranting the full-on FA Cup victory lap. “We want our country back,” the MP and his band of supporters chanted.

Asked by a reporter from his local newspaper who, precisely, it was he wanted his country back from, Anderson responded: “From people like you, from the Westminster elite.” When the journalist pointed out he’d lived his entire life in Nottinghamshire, Anderson simply shrugged.

With the King sadly out of action, deranged rumours swirling around his son and daughter-in-law and Prince Harry potentially being deported from the US should Trump return to office, it’s a busy old time for the Royal Family’s press team.

So what better time to join it? The royal household is currently advertising for a communications assistant, “responding to day-to-day media enquiries on a range of subjects, including about the work of members of the Royal Family”.

You’ll need, among other things, the “ability to thrive in a fast-paced and dynamic environment, demonstrating initiative and adaptability to meet tight deadlines” and, weirdly, “a basic working knowledge of Excel”. But you will take home £25,642.50 a year – AND “20% off at our Royal Collection Trust Shops”.

A huge moment in the Senedd this week as Vaughan Gething was voted in as Wales’ new first minister and Europe’s first black national leader.

One Labour MS, however, failed to make it into the chamber to vote. Jenny Rathbone’s absence is surely unrelated to the incident in 2020 when Covid restrictions meant proceedings were held online, Gething forgot to hit the mute button and everyone was treated to him asking “what the fuck is wrong with” his party colleague.

Former Marxist turned Brexit Party MEP turned peer and GB News regular Claire Fox popped up in the Lords this week in a debate on regulation of broadcast news.

Defending her favourite channel, she said it was “popular with growing audiences, 60% of whom are based in the north. Some 3.5 million viewers watch the TV channel monthly; a further 3.5 million access its social media and 20 million its website. This month, GB News has had more views than Sky News 48% of the time and more than BBC News 29% of the time.”

Strong stuff, with just a few errors – 60% of its viewers aren’t in the north (it’s 36.4%, and that includes Scotland and Northern Ireland), 3.5 million viewers don’t watch the channel monthly (2.96 million watch for a minimum of three minutes, 926,000 for an hour) and GB News has not had more views than Sky News 48% of the time and BBC News 29% of the time this month (the figures are 42.8% and 7.1%). Apart from that, the speech was entirely accurate.

How does the Premier League really feel about the government’s plans for an independent football regulator?

On Tuesday, as the Football Governance Bill was introduced in Parliament, ministers chose Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road football ground in East London to conduct interviews with journalists and broadcasters.

Meanwhile, the Premier League was busy tweeting: “The Premier League has provided £2.25m investment to @leytonorientfc over the last 12 months. They’re one of thousands of clubs to benefit, we’re proud of the impact this funding has #PLMoreThanAGame.” A coincidence, surely, and not the PL giving the finger to the notion the game might be better governed from outside.

Over at the Times, incidentally, the issue of an independent football regulator is causing some of the biggest scraps between players on the same team since Blackburn’s David Batty and Graeme Le Saux engaged in a bout of fisticuffs during a Champions League game in Moscow in 1995.

Star sports columnist Martin Samuel loathes the idea, using any opportunity to pen articles with headlines such as ‘Wanted: a true football reformer – no grasp of game needed’. Chief football writer Henry Winter, however, loves the idea. “Anyone who cares about the game, and the game at all levels, will embrace it,” he wrote as the Bill was introduced this week.

The pair now appear to be putting in little-disguised studs-up tackles on each other. The sports desk must think it needs a referee, not an editor!

Responding to claims by Earl Spencer that he was physically and sexually abused by staff at a prep school in the 1970s, the Telegraph’s restaurant critic, William Sitwell penned a column titled “Earl Spencer doesn’t look back on our boarding school fondly, but it did me a world of good”.

Putting aside whether ‘not looking back fondly’ is an adequate way of summing up reporting years of horrific child sexual abuse, many on Twitter/X wondered if, in fact, Sitwell’s schooling had done him a world of good.

“Anyone who has encountered Mr Sitwell, either in real life or as a TV pundit, must beg to differ,” said writer Andrew Male, while James Meynell recalled: “The producers at Soho Radio would call him ‘Gitwell’ as he was rude to the young work experience ones.”

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