Every vote is sacred, every vote is grand – as is demonstrated by the lengths to which Charles Clarke’s wife went to win a few for her husband
A kick in the nimbys
It will not come as a surprise to you that MPs are prepared to go to any lengths to protect their seats. Charles Clarke tried to curry favour with the nimby vote in his Norwich South constituency by supporting a petition against a proposed bungalow on his street. However, Clarke didn’t do the door-knocking himself – instead his wife went up and down the road collecting signatures. The ingratiation may have backfired, however – one woman on the home secretary’s street emails me to say she took one look at the petition then went and voted Tory.
You would have thought that hanging on to a hotly contested marginal and seeing your party returned to government would be an excuse for a glass or two of champagne … but not if you’re Nigel Griffiths. Rather than a wild night on the town, Nige chose to spend last weekend with his elderly aunt and sister. “I’m just not a party person,” he tells me. I assume he was referring to his preference for Horlicks rather than being the latest Labour MP to turn independent, but you never can tell with Nigel.
Now even richer …
Stef Stefanou is a wily man. He managed to snaffle 50 notes off my colleague last week by accurately predicting the general election result. Stef guessed a Labour majority of about 70, whereas my dim-witted colleague went for greater than 80. No wonder Staf is so rich. And while we’re on the subject, he and brother Stelios were ranked 740th in this year’s The Sunday Times Rich List with a combined wealth of £66m, but I’m told the newspaper didn’t add up their fortunes correctly – they may in fact be £5m better off than that …
We hold our hands up this week: the usually uncannily accurate predictions of our newsdesk were a little awry last week. David Blunkett is not, it transpires, the new minister for Local Government and Communities. In our defence, the story was entirely correct on Friday morning, and went on being so until the moment when Tony Blair had a last-minute change of heart, possibly precipitated by the fact John Prescott was about to punch his head in. Prezza reportedly blocked moves to break up his ODPM fiefdom, and all the signs are that Blair caved in because right now he needs all the friends he can get.
The politics of fear
The Respect party certainly made an impact at last week’s general election when “Gorgeous George” Galloway sneaked in as MP for Bow and Bethnal Green constituency. This came despite some unusual attempts to drum up public support. RICS spinmeister Andrew Smith recounts seeing a Respect entourage pass by his house recently, complete with loudspeakers denouncing Tony Blair as a warmonger. And Smith’s abiding memory of the campaign bus? “Two kids making V-signs at me out of the back window. Not much respect there,” he comments.
Rumours are circulating that trans-London rail link Crossrail will be scrapped if the capital wins the right to host the 2012 Olympics. A source reckons he heard this from a mate of his in the government. Crossrail bosses have assured me that this is “utter nonsense”. Still, let’s not be too shocked if its future is being questioned behind closed doors …