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Rats in a Sack: We’re a local party for local people, insist the Tories

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Lee Anderson, Monty Panesar, Sarah Vine and more

Photo by David Lodge/FilmMagic

Proper rats in a sack action in Swanage, Dorset, where the local Conservative Party has delivered leaflets asking people not to be swayed by the actions of Conservatives when deciding on whether to vote Conservative today.

The leaflet, pushed through doors throughout the coastal town, tells residents: “Putting it mildly, Swanage Conservatives have become just as angry, upset and frustrated as so many members of the public at aspects of government conduct and the behaviour of MPs of our own party who have brought the party into disrepute.

“But whatever we do here, however much we work, we cannot affect these things and naturally we don’t feel we should be held responsible for what goes on at or around Westminster. So we hope you will not use these important local elections to make a token gesture against the government and/or squalidly-behaving MPs, because the only effects or that would be felt here on our work for Swanage and Dorset.”

So, basically: trust us to collect your bins. Those MPs sending pictures of their genitals to blackmailers, getting mixed up with “bad men” who lock them in a flat or peddling their influence to the betting industry? Nothing to do with us, guv!

The Liberal Democrats are well known for their dodgy bar charts on election literature, with the sizes of the bars often being barely on nodding terms with the figures they’re supposed to represent. But now the Conservatives have hit back with a chancy chart of their own – and how!

Residents in Eastbourne have received a leaflet from their Tory MP Caroline Ansell with a bar chart demonstrating how ‘Lib Dems Can’t Win Here’. Except it does no such thing, displaying the parties not by their performance in the last election, nor even the most recent polls, but by their current number of MPs (the SNP, shown in third, are unlikely to put up a candidate in Eastbourne). So, utterly irrelevant to the argument!

(The leaflet also explains how “What is known, is that The [sic] Prime Minister will be Rishi Sunak or Labour’s Kier [sic] Starmer,” suggesting Ansell should not be an education minister regardless of the result.)

More dodgy polling statistics courtesy of Reform UK blowhard Lee Anderson, who last week posted results on Twitter/X showing that he was on course to take 65% of the vote at the next general election in his Ashfield constituency.

“Extremely encouraging polling carried out in Ashfield,” he said. “This is a sample of just over 1,000 voters in Ashfield but already we can see the strength of feeling.”

Strangely, though, Anderson did not publish details of which pollster was commissioned to carry out this research, despite many on the platform asking for it. The most recent survey by YouGov – an actual pollster, rather than just, say, asking one’s mates down the pub – shows him on 23% and losing his seat to Labour.

With the Daily Mirror reporting Nigel Farage is set to return to politics come the general election, it’s telling the word is of him “fronting the Reform UK campaign” rather than coming back as leader.

While Farage likes attention, he’s never much cared for bureaucracy or dealing with the loopier members of the parties he’s led, Ukip and the Brexit Party. And the last couple of weeks have shown problems with both in Reform.

First, the party deselected Tommy Cawkwell, its candidate in York Central, for his perceived lack of activity. “We can’t afford to have people doing nothing in an election year,” a party spokesperson had told the York Press. But it then emerged Cawkwell’s campaign had been slightly inconvenienced by him being dead.

Now it emerges Mark Butcher, its candidate in today’s Blackpool South by-election, had uploaded a video to YouTube in which he voiced various conspiracy theories including that the government gets a person’s weight in gold which it trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange every time they sign a document, and how the CIA invented television to put people to sleep.

Little wonder Farage might fancy the publicity stunts and photo opportunities and leave the rest to Richard Tice!

A particularly odd exchange in the House of Lords occurred this week as Conservative peer and former health secretary Baroness Bottomley attempted to alert Lord Bird, crossbencher and Big Issue co-founder, to the fact his speech was badly overrunning.

“15 minutes!” whispered Bottomley, waving her order paper. “You’ve had 15 minutes!”.

“Oh, have I? Sorry,” responded Bird. “I love you. I love you.”

“I love you too,” said Bottomley.

“She’s gorgeous,” Bird told the House. Fortunately it was 9pm by this point so most of his fellow peers were long since asleep.

George Galloway’s Workers Party for Britain unveiled former England spinner Monty Panesar as a candidate for the forthcoming general election this week, and what a superb addition to politics he will be.

Asked on Times Radio why the party’s number one priority is the UK’s withdrawal from NATO, Panesar explained: “Because we don’t really have control of our borders. We have illegal migration, and then what ends up happening is some of these illegal migrants go into the poorer, more deprived areas and then the resources get strained in them [sic] areas.

“And it affects the ordinary people, our working people in this country. So it affects the poorest. And I think why our party wants to have a debate about, is it really necessary to be in NATO or not?”.

Quite what any of this has to do with NATO is unclear. How’s that, as they say!

Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine took part in a live online Q&A session with readers this week, answering questions on the likes of the Royal Family, Taylor Swift and Baby Reindeer.

One, though, bore all the hallmarks of coming straight from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: “What was it like being married to the charismatic Michael Gove?”.

“I learned a great deal,” said Vine, diplomatically.

“I’m sorry but it simply isn’t healthy for a society to treat its politicians in this vomit-inducing way,” huffed GB News presenter Darren Grimes on Twitter/X about an appearance by US vice-president Kamala Harris on Drew Barrymore’s chat show. “Vomit-inducing propaganda puff piece.”

Setting aside Grimes’ limited vocabulary – using “vomit-inducing” twice in a 22-word post – he makes a fair point. Perhaps society should be treating its politicians the way Grimes’ employer does – by employing a number of them on sky-high salaries to routinely interview each other about how great they are!

Still, at least Grimes is still in a job, unlike an increasing number of GB News figures. Pip Tomson was the latest to announce her departure this week as the cash-strapped channel implements a round of redundancies.

The broadcaster is looking to cut 40 roles in its first voluntary redundancy round, about 14% of its workforce, as it wrestles with recorded operating losses of £42.4m in its most recent accounts. Editorial staff working on individual shows are to be replaced with a “pooled” story team, while economics editor Liam Halligan, quite possibly the channel’s only on-air figure to even vaguely understand the subject, is said to be off. 

Still, there’s always Boris Johnson, still yet to appear on the channel a mere seven months after his appointment was announced amid much fanfare!

Have News UK staff not even noticed their own news channel, TalkTV, no longer exists?

It remained in the Sunday Times Culture’s TV guide this week in its usual slot, except designers had plonked the schedule of vintage film channel Talking Pictures TV in there instead, not even bothering to alter the channel’s name.

Things are not much better on mainstream TV, where ITV’s Good Morning Britain booked Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce to give viewers the benefit of their inside knowledge into what is going on at the top of the SNP.

Maguire made a lame gag about Humza Yousaf being more “Briefheart” than “Braveheart”, Pierce told viewers how the outgoing former first minister had once fallen off a scooter and both the pair and host Richard Madeley confessed they knew little about other senior figures in the party. 

Pierce began talking about “the runner-up last time”. “What’s she called again?” asked Madeley. “She’s called Kate Forbes?” Pierce asked Maguire quizzically. “Yes, she is, yes,” replied the Mirror man. “Well, there we are, see!” said Madeley, point made.

Scottish viewers must have been delighted to get such insight from three men who between them could barely remember the name of the woman who until little over a year ago was the nation’s finance secretary!

Talk radio channel LBC has faced searching questions in the past weeks about the disappearance from its schedules of presenter Sangita Myska, missing from the air since an April 20 show in which she clashed with an Israeli government spokesman. So when the channel’s owners Global finally announced Myska was being replaced on Wednesday, you might have expected her successor to take a sombre and reflective tone.

But not when that successor is Vanessa Feltz, whose breathy quotes in the station’s press release included: “After a long and passionate courtship, I’ve finally succumbed to the allure of LBC. Actually, I was powerless to resist. Global’s dynamism is mesmerising… brace yourself for May 4th – May the fourth be with you.”

While Myska’s future is unclear – she warranted only two short sentences at the end of the press release – fans will be glad to see the irrepressible Feltz bounce back after her £700,000-a-year job at Talk TV ended when the station closed last week. There will surely be no repeat of the famous Woman’s Own headline about Feltz when she faced difficulties in 2005: “Friends fear she’s drinking custard again.”

Sky News this week showed its viewers an image of some of the SNP’s key figures. For some reason, though, health secretary Neil Gray, who has long since gone bald, was illustrated with a full luscious head of hair. Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, however, remained bald as a coot.

The other talking point in the Scottish Parliament is the identity of the anonymous parliamentary researcher who has been speaking to the Daily Telegraph’s regular ‘How I Spend My Money’ feature.

The 24-year-old should be identifiable – he speaks of going to cricket training; not a sport popular in Scotland and dismissed by The Thick Of It’s Malcolm Tucker as “the English equivalent of sport… no actual physical contact, just glaring”.

But what’s got people talking is his meat consumption. The staffer, who admits he – and let’s face it, it is a he – admits he “live[s] like an animal” and eats Lidl beef raw. “

Raw beef is great, especially with a dash of salt. It can be eaten at a moment’s notice, it has never made me sick, and is extremely tasty and juicy. You can either cut it up into bite-size cubes, or handle a larger piece with your hands and rip chunks with your teeth. I opt for the former.” Jings!

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