Westminster Times

Was it a conspiracy or a cock-up? It rather depends who you ask, but the ousting of veteran left-wing MP Dennis "the beast of Bolsover" Skinner from Labour's "ruling" executive after decades has shocked Westminster.

Some believe the 82-year-old, working class, unrepentant socialist had upset Ed Miliband to the point the Labour leader ordered his MPs to vote him off the National Executive Committee.

Others said it was nearer to an accident because other good candidates simply managed to attract more votes. MPs were voting without considering it could see Skinner removed, they claimed.

Either way there was plenty of regret echoing around Labour's ranks in Westminster.

Skinner is famous for his his now traditional heckle during the state opening of parliament and his fierce attacks on Tory leaders and, quite often, Labour leaders. Although he did not seem to have been particularly vocal about Ed Miliband's leadership.

Only the day before his defeat he challenged David Cameron over the NHS and told him to "get on with it or get out". And, as usual, he mentioned the Bullingdon Club.

He certainly represents an element of the Labour party that has virtually disappeared and, love him or loath him, he has become an institution in his own right. And he will hate that!

Chancellor George Osborne
Osborne refused to do his times tablesReuters

No right answer

Chancellor George Osborne has attracted some flak for refusing to answer a school pupil's challenge for him to say what seven times eight was.

He told the youngster that he made it a rule not to answer maths questions. And he is right, plenty of politicians have been caught out like that in the past, and where would it end?

If he got it wrong, and everyone can fluff their times tables, the ridicule would never end.

And if he got it right it would only invite further questions like, what was the size of the national debt when you came into office any by what percentage have you increased or decreased it?

Revolving doors

Remember Fiona Cunningham? No?

She was the home secretary's special adviser forced to resign after being held responsible for publicly escalating the row between her boss and education secretary Michael Gove over Muslim extremism in schools.

She has turned up with a new job as associate director at the Centre for Social Justice think tank created by Iain Duncan Smith where she will lead research into modern slavery.

Euan and Tony Blair
MPs keep it in the familyReuters


David Cameron has coined a new label for would-be Labour MPs: the "red princes".

He used the insult (yes, it was definitely an insult) during question time when he declared Labour had got "son of Blair, son of Straw, son of Prescott, son of Dromey" all lining up for the Commons.

True. But shortly afterwards, Tory MP Mark Pawsey leapt to his feet to ask the prime minister a question, failing to point out his father was former Tory MP James Pawsey.

And do we really need to go through the list? Bernard Jenkin, son of Patrick; Bill Wiggin, son of Jerry; Nick Hurd, son of Douglas; Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill...

It is so obvious it shouldn't need pointing out.

Exchange of the week

Speaking during question time, Tory Sir Tony Baldry pointed out that a 13-year-old Ed Miliband had delivered a leaflet to his home backing then Labour leader Michael Foot's call for Britain to withdraw from the EU.

A smiling Cameron responded: "I have always thought it terribly unfair to hold against people things they might have done in their youth." What could he have been referring to?

Perhaps those old claims about Eton and cannabis to which he has only ever responded that all politicians are entitled to a past before they came into politics.

Still, he continued: "If that was his (Miliband's) idea of fun ... obviously, we have to make room for everybody."

And when Labour MPs jeered about what he called fun, he joked: "What is my idea of fun? It is not hanging out with the shadow Chancellor, that is no idea of fun.

"I feel sorry for the Leader of the Opposition, because he has to hang out with him all the time. What a miserable existence it must be..."