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Prime Muncher’s food ban following Great Hot Dog Meltdown

Plus will Tony Benn’s son reclaim the family viscountcy and enter the House of Lords?

It’s ermine and red roses as Labour peers discuss welcoming a Benn back into the House of Lords. My snout in the scarlet robe whispered that Stephen Benn, the eldest son of the deceased Tony, is keen to sit on the burgundy benches now that he has acquired the hereditary title renounced by Daddy. For the new 3rd Viscount Stansgate to bag a seat, one of the four Labour hereditaries (the 3rd Viscount Hanworth, the 18th Baron Berkeley, the 4th Baron Ponsonby or the 3rd Baron Rea) must shuffle off this mortal coil. Tony Blair reprieved 92 blue bloods in all and, under a peculiarly British constitutional oxymoron, the hereditaries elect replacements from a gene pool of 200 registered peers. The snout added that Baron Rea, an 86-year-old retired GP, is in no hurry to make way for Stansgate. “I would very much welcome Stephen Benn into the Lords,” he was overheard musing, “but I for one have no intention of popping off just yet.”

Michael Gove proclaimed loudly at a dinner: “Don’t worry, it’s just one more year.” What could he have meant? I refuse to believe rumours that the Education Secretary would relish a return to journalism. He hails from the Times, yet the talk is of Gove joining his scribbler wife, Sarah Vine, at the Daily Mail.

Gove’s appointment of Scotland Yard’s one-time anti-terror chief Peter Clarke to investigate the alleged Islamist infiltration of Birmingham schools was a paranoid overreaction. Clarke’s sleuthing was on show at a seminar on policing and technology at the National Liberal Club. Fiddling with his BlackBerry, he was overheard muttering: “God, I have never learned to work this thing.” Evidently he’s an old-style copper.

To Jarrow, where Jude Kirton-Darling, the newly elected north-east Labour MEP, recalled a £2,000 donation to the party from a Durham stonemason. On the back of the cheque was scribbled: “Don’t f*** it up.” Who said business doesn’t support Labour?

Ed Miliband’s lost battle with a bacon sarnie prompted a No 10 flunkey to mutter that David Cameron is banned by staff from eating in public after the Great Hot Dog Meltdown of March 2012. The Prime Muncher didn’t know how to tackle an American dawg handed to him by Barack Obama at a college basketball game. Dave, the answer is longways, not sideways.

I forgive right-wingers many things but not a sense of humour. The Mail’s Simon Heffer was tickled by this column’s report a fortnight ago that it is said he lay on the floor to minimise his chins in a photo shoot. The Heff responded that if he did lie on a floor, he’d never be able to get up again.

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 25 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Who was Franz Ferdinand?

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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