Westminster Times
Westminster Times

Gove the "nightmare"

Education Secretary Michael Gove is better know to some as the husband of journalist, and new recruit to the Daily Mail's roster of columnists, Sarah Vine.

And in her début column for the newspaper, Vine reports on the domestic delights prompted by the end of the school and political holiday season.

"Love my children, obviously. Love my husband, too. But honestly, having them hanging around the house all summer is a complete nightmare," she wrote with some feeling.

This may well be exactly the same sentiments - without the love bit, obviously - being muttered by Gove's leader, David Cameron, in the wake of his minister's latest remarks that people using food banks probably only have themselves to blame for making bad decisions.

Add to that the fact that Gove is still being touted as a candidate to replace Cameron if he again fails to win a general election outright and you could understand why the prime minister might have preferred it if Gove had continued making his wife's life a nightmare rather than his.

Beer and sandwiches

Cabinet minister Ken Clarke is a no-nonsense, old school politician. He likes a drink and a cigar and he doesn't care who knows it.

So it is probably fitting that political journalists who originally planned to have a sit-down slap-up (I use the words cautiously) lunch with him have been forced into a re-think after he first cried off, then re-instated himself at the last minute.

The plans are now for beer and sandwiches in the canteen. The last person to do that was Labour PM Harold Wilson who used to "enjoy" such lunches in No 10 with trade union leaders.

A very dangerous politician

London Mayor Boris Johnson always delights with his classical references and rhetorical flourishes even when we haven't the faintest idea what he is blustering on about.

But his ancient Greek seemed to fail him when under attack during a debate over his controversial fire service reforms. Shortly after telling London assembly members to "get stuffed" he was picked up by microphones muttering "bo....ks" to himself. He apologised, but too late - echoes of 1990s Tory leader John Major when he was caught on microphone calling his Eurosceptic rebels "bast...s".

The truth, of course, is that Boris can get away with things that would prove hugely embarrassing, maybe even fatal, to other politicians.

Maybe it's the studied buffoonery or maybe it is because he has so won over the electorate with his charm that he can do and say anything he likes.

Either way, that makes him a truly dangerous politician.

Spinning the PM's specs

Never mind UN resolutions on Syria, sweeping reforms of the Civil Service or even stalled plans for a Royal Charter on the press. The event that dominated David Cameron's appearance at the Liaison committee of MPs this week was - his spectacles. You might not believe this but these events are always stage managed to the last degree and there is little doubt Cameron decided best to get this "story" out of the way at the otherwise deadly dull committee hearing rather than wait a day when he would have been forced to "out" himself as a speccie during Prime Minister's Questions which he wanted to be all about Ed Miliband's lame TUC speech.

Office politics

The House of Commons administrators have just published a report on how the 2015 intake of new MPs should be eased into the Kafkaesque workings of the Palace of Westminster.

There are plenty of suggestions, including offering free laptops and tablet computers, dedicated staff members to show them around the place and where the toilets are and so on.

But they stopped short of suggesting the authorities should be responsible for allocating offices to newcomers, removing that role from the party Whips.

They explained the decision thus: "We sometimes find it very difficult to get to the bottom of some of the Member issues, which the Whips are possibly better placed to do than us. As far as moving an entrenched Member into or out of an office, we sometimes find it very difficult to achieve levers that are going to make the result actually happen."

By "levers", of course, they mean the sort of threats and inducements that only Whips, with their infamous black books of career defining information, have at their disposal.