Is there no end to the cruelty of the Daily Telegraph in its coverage of MPs’ expenses?
My God, they have only gone and published a detailed account of my exit from a celebrity (sic) edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Just when Fiona and I were finally getting over it.
Why in the Telegraph today, you ask? It happened years ago. Surely anyone with a vague interest in seeing me fail saw or read about it at the time, or might have caught the occasional repeats people delight in telling me have been on since.
Ah, but the big revelation is that the friend I phoned when we were struggling with an £8000 question was none other than Sir Ian Kennedy, the new chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
What, you mean this man has ‘friends?’ Gosh. But how can a man who has friends who once worked for Tony Blair possibly do a job properly? I know, I know, amazing isn’t it? ‘Certain to raise questions’ (innuendo handbook cliche number 14) about his independence, I’d say (if I worked for the Telegraph, that is.).
‘It can also be disclosed’ (IHCN9) that Sir Ian had dinner as a guest of TB at Chequers. What? The man who had successfully led the review into Britain’s rabies laws (yes, you dog-lovers have him to thank for being able to take your pets to France) and who chaired the Bristol babies inquiry was thought worthy of an invite to Chequers? Scandal. It is ‘bound to raise suspicions’ that Blair must have known there would be an expenses scandal one day, there would be a new regulatory body born of it, and he’d better get this Kennedy chap onside in case he lands the job. Banged to rights.
The paper says David Cameron and Nick Clegg ‘will almost certainly (ICHN 4) not have been aware of Sir Ian’s links to the New Labour establishment when welcoming his appointment.’
Yet they then somewhat undermine that possibility by publishing in copious detail the references to Sir Ian in my diaries, when on holiday he gave invaluable advice in advance of the Hutton Inquiry. I cannot speak for Clegg but I have considerable evidence that Mr Cameron and his team are very familiar with my diaries.
I can also ‘disclose’ that the first I knew Sir Ian was taking up this new post was when he had already been appointed, since when I have discovered he informed the panel which appointed him both of his friendships in politics and of his appearance in my diaries. So any questions it was ‘bound to raise’ with them had clearly already been raised and dealt with.
He is indeed a friend, one who knows his own mind and will do any job asked of him well. (The words I gave to the Telegraph when they contacted me about their big scoop, but which appear not to have been included in their online coverage).
Nor did my comment that I was ‘disappointed’ he did not know the answer when I phoned him from the Who Wants to be a Millionaire studio.
It was a Valentine’s Day couples special. Neither Fiona or I were terribly keen to do it in the first place. But the chance of a million for Leukaemia Research was too good to miss. But be fair, how is this an 8000 quid question. ‘Which country launched the Skylab space station? France, Russia, Britain or America?’ Got to be worth half a million.
I can remember saying as the question popped up ‘it won’t be France because they would call it something French’. However, when we went to 50-50 and America and France were the two remaining, that thought had moved on, Ian was unsure, so were we, but as the US had the Apollo programme, we plumped for France. I could tell from the immediate Chris Tarrant smirk that we’d had it.
So thanks to the cruelty squad at the Telegraph for bringing all that back. Thanks, more sincerely, for such generous plugging of The Blair Years.
And well done to Ian Kennedy in continuing to want to contribute to public service, knowing that those who put their heads above the parapet might have potshots fired at them from time to time.