Dirty tricks, no nicks and standards

Marina on an electoral roll and thinking back to those Playboy days

Dear Marina

If one more person calls me to report a pothole, pledge a donation or join something called “the revolution” I’m throwing my phone out the window.

I keep telling them I’ve never heard of you and to f**k off. It was my son who spotted the same name on some leaflet people keep shoving through my door. What’s going on?

Disengaged, East Saltdean, near Brighton

Thank you for getting in touch. Given the number of Focus leaflets delivered through your letter box, it does concern me you’ve never heard of Marina Pepper.

I am one of your local Liberal Democrat councillors standing for re-election on 3rd May for East Saltdean and Telscombe Ward. That’s where you live.

Regarding the phone problem, there are three possibilities. Either we have a simple crossed wire, clever seagulls or somebody enjoys a prank.

Allegations of tampering are currently under investigation so I’d best not elaborate. But suffice to say it has not been lost on my crew that your disarming phone manner will have played an interesting curve ball to the electorate this week.

All calls are now redirected to my mobile until further notice at no extra charge to the caller. And please, in the spirit of sisterhood, register to vote. I notice you are not on the electoral roll. You have until 5.00pm on Wednesday 18th April.

Dear Marina,

Anna Nicole Smith was 39 years old when she died. You are 39 now. Given you're her age and with first-hand experience being in Playboy I thought you might be able to answer a question that's been plaguing me: Who's her baby's daddy?
So far three men are up for the task (or the fortune) of parenting six-month Dannilynn: Howard K. Stern, owner of the sizzling business, Hot Smoochie Lips, Inc., Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, who is already married to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her former Australian bodyguard, Alexander Denk.
So, please, draw your bunny ears and contemplate which man you are hoping will come out as the victor following DNA tests.

Love H from the US

Playboy Centrefolds don’t wear ears – that’s Playboy Bunnies. They are croupiers and waitresses. We are ….I don’t know what we are……fine specimens of womankind I assume. Anyway, we wear – well, not much at all really. Although I do now, since that is what is expected of proper upstanding members of the community. But not underwear. It’s too warm these days.

Now we’ve cleared that one up, to your question. Who’s the daddy? Who cares? If a bunch of girl men want to carry on like a harem of cash crazed Texan gold diggers in some twisted narrative Hollywood inversion of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, I’m not going to waste time worrying. I have a mountain of Focus leaflets to deliver and a Tory party machine to beat by 3rd May

I wonder if any of the men in question would like to make a donation. They can contact me by clicking here.

Dear Marina

You were recently reported to the Standards Board for England over allegations of your conduct following planning permission being granted for a waste incinerator in Newhaven. Apparently you said opponents to the scheme had “followed the due process and now is the time for direct action.” I understand the complainant interpreted this to mean “a call for civil unrest outside the law.”

What should we expect Councillor Pepper? Riots or a resignation?
RG, Sussex

As the Standards Board has ruled – and I agree – “direct action” can include a multitude of lawful activities. Such as home composting, shopping wisely, leaving excess packaging at supermarkets, re-using, recycling, even demonstrating outside parliament: if you fill out a form and don’t tread on the flowerbeds.

Having said that, a number of great people and movements in history have broken the law to ensure better laws. To name a few: the Suffragettes, Tom Paine, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Ghandi.

If the people of Newhaven and the surrounding area want to change government waste policies and feel their only option – now Ruth Kelly has refused to call in the incinerator planning decision – is to take to the streets and chain themselves to the swing bridge in the centre of town, I can neither condemn nor condone their behaviour. I will however fully understand their sense of frustration.

Gotta go. Did you know I’m standing for election on 3rd May in the ward of East Saltdean and Telscombe? It’s a two horse race between Liberal Democrats and the Incinerator-hugging Tories. If you want to send a donation contact

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

On Brexit, David Cameron knows exactly what he's doing

It's not a dead cat - it's about disarming the Leave campaign. 

If you’re explaining, you’re losing. That’s the calculation behind David Cameron’s latest entry into the In-Out (or Remain-Leave in new money) battle. The Prime Minister has warned that were Britain to leave the European Union, the migrant camp at Calais – popularly known as “the Jungle” – could move to Britain. But Eurosceptic campaigners have angrily denounced the remarks, saying that there’s little chance of it happening either way.  

Who’s right? My colleague Henry Zeffman has written a handy explainer of the ins and outs of the row, but the short version is: the Eurosceptic campaigners are broadly right.

But the remarks are very far from a gaffe by Downing Street or Cameron, and they aren’t a “dead cat” strategy – where you say something offensive, prompting a debate about that instead of another, trickier issue – either.

Campaigners for Remain have long been aware that immigration remains their glass jaw. The line wheeled out by Cameron has been long-planned. Late last year, senior members of the In campaign discussed what they saw as the danger points for the campaign. The first was a renegotiation that managed to roll back workplace rights, imperilling the support of the Labour party and the trade unions was one – happily avoided by Cameron’s piecemeal deal.

That the deal would be raked over in the press is not considered a risk point. Stronger In has long known that its path to victory does not run through a sympathetic media. The expectation has long been that even substantial concessions would doubtless have been denounced by the Mail, Telegraph and Sun – and no-one seriously expected that Cameron would emerge with a transformative deal. Since well before the general election, the Prime Minister has been gradually scaling back his demands. The aim has always been to secure as many concessions as possible in order to get an In vote – but Downing Street’s focus has always been on the “as possible” part rather than the “securing concessions” bit.

Today’s row isn’t about deflecting attention from a less-than-stellar deal, but about defanging another “risk point” for the In campaign: border control.

Campaign strategists believe they can throw the issue into neutral by casting doubt on Leave’s ability to control borders any better. One top aide said: “Our line is this: if we vote to leave, the border moves from Calais to Dover, it’s that simple.” They are also keen to make more of the fact that Norway has equally high levels of migration from the European Union as the United Kingdom. While In will never “own” the issue of immigration, they believe they can make the battle sufficiently murky that voters will turn to the areas that favour a Remain vote – national security, economic stability, and keeping people in their jobs.

What the row exposes, rather than a Prime Minister under pressure is a politician who knows exactly what he’s doing – and just how vulnerable the lack of a serious heavyweight at the top makes the Leave campaign(s). Most people won't make a judgement based on reading up the minutinae of European treaties, but on a "sniff test" of which side they think is more trustworthy. It's not a fight about the facts - it's a fight about who is more trusted by the public: David Cameron, or Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling or Priti Patel? As one minister said to me: "I like Priti, but the idea that she can go against the PM as far as voters are concerned is ridiculous. Most people haven't heard of her." 

Leave finds itself in a position uncomfortably like that of Labour in the run-up to the election: with Cameron able to paint himself as the only option guaranteeing stability, against a chaotic and muddled alternative. Without a politician, a business figure or even a prominent celebrity who can provide credibility on the level of the Prime Minister, any row about whether or not Brexit increases the chances of more migrants on Britain’s doorsteps helps Remain – and Cameron. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.