Nigel Farage by Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: Nigel Farage’s World Cup jitters

Plus how the Labour Leader’s team try to avoid him being portrayed as “Weird Ed”.

One of the tasks of people working for Ed Miliband is spotting potential photos that could be twisted to portray him as Weird Ed. If the Labour leader was, say, at a Dickens literary festival, it would be the responsibility of an aide to ensure that his head didn’t block out the “-ens” in pictures. So imagine the dilemma observed by my snout when Mili was invited by his equalities spokeswoman, Sharon Hodgson, to shoot a few hoops in a game of wheelchair basketball on a makeshift court in the shadow of Big Ben. Ed Balls was only too happy to play but Mili’s point guard, Anna Yearley, declined on her master’s behalf after Hodgson spotted the pair strolling by. Fearing a future dig from Private Eye, perhaps mocking Mili for sitting down on the job, Operation Cotton Wool takes no risks with the porcelain figurine.

The self-styled patriot Nigel Farage is a fan of rugger and cricket rather than the round ball game, as his private school ilk are prone to dismiss association football. Yet he may be suffering palpitations over the chances of England meeting Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup in Brazil. It is unlikely, but an England-Germany clash is enough to bring Ukip’s anti-migrant John Bull out in a cold sweat. Farage’s German wife, Kirsten, has in the past draped the black, red and gold tricolour of her native country over the fence of the family home when the two nations played. Tory right-wingers snigger that Farage wouldn’t want his household to fail Norman Tebbit’s cricket test.

I hear that the Lib Dem minister Tom Brake, the deputy leader of the Commons, informed the Association of Professional Political Consultants that he is minded to require lawyers to enrol on the fledgling register of lobbyists. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Nick Clegg pops home to inform Miriam González Durántez, the head of the EU wing of the international corporate law firm Dechert and also Mrs Clegg, that she must sign up. Will there be a special section for pillow talk?

The Labour frontbencher Stephen Pound has turned Ealing North into a safe seat and bucked the trend in 2010 by winning more than half the votes cast with one of the few swings to Labour. Yet he wondered aloud if somebody thought he’d overstayed his welcome when he received an invitation to purchase copies of Who Was Who. Sound-as-a-Pound informed the publisher that he intends to stand again. 

The word is that Kevin Barron, the chair of the Low Standards Committee, harbours ambitions to succeed Malcolm Rifkind at the No Intelligence Committee after the election. I suppose that their interests – sleazebags and spooks – have criminality in common.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 08 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, India's worst nightmare?

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame