The Week in Politics: 2011 dribbles to an end

A typical birthday bash for Aidan Burley
A typical birthday bash for Aidan Burley

MPs at Nazi parties, newspaper editors in memory-lapse shock and Lib Dems getting bolshy - it's the week in politics.

By Ian Dunt

The year in politics is coming to an end with more of a dribble than a flood, as parliament ties up a few loose ends and senior Lib Dems attack their coalition allies, for lack of anything better to do. Everyone gets a bit bored in holiday season, if we're honest, so perhaps there'll be a few more choice nuggets from Chris Huhne on Boxing Day. For now you'll have to content yourself with his dig at David Cameron over his EU alliances.

Major scalp of the week went to Aidan Burley, who finally lost his job as a parliamentary private secretary, after photos of him emerged at a party surrounded by men in Nazi uniforms shouting 'Heil Hitler'. Morally, you're on dodgy ground there. Politically, you've shown yourself to have the judgement of a dormouse and legally (this is the fun part) you might be in deep water too. The French have one of those rather draconian old laws that bans the wearing of Nazi uniforms or symbols unless it's for dramatic reenactment. Unless Burley can suggest he was doing a reenactment of Prince Harry's infamous party outfit he may be in trouble here. There are already calls for him to lose the party whip.

While Tory MPs were dabbling with the far right, the semi-far left was doing a bit of negotiating of its own. Protesters at St Paul's were in negotiations to clear off, on the understanding they could leave a small camp outside and a "symbolic" tent inside. The City of London pressed ahead with its court battle regardless. Meanwhile, UK Uncut enjoyed the best press coverage of its short life when its claims on corporate tax avoidance were largely vindicated by a Commons select committee. Several public sector unions reacted favourably to new government proposals on pensions, although there were some malcontents as well. Meanwhile, future rioters learned that police shouldn't shoot them with baton rounds or pound them with water cannons. Or at least, that's what a committee of MPs thinks. Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary begged to differ. They're all for it. So, next time you're setting fire to a private building, you're just going to have to take your chances.

Over at the Leveson inquiry, Piers Morgan was giving evidence, and managed to drum up enough disdain to wipe out a small country. The former Mirror editor insisted there had been no phone-hacking at the paper when he was there, in a squirming manner which did little to instil confidence in the viewer. The next day, evidence of a somewhat different sort was offered.

But back to the daily politics of coalition, which now involves Nick Clegg picking fights with people in long-winded speech with pompous names. This week he rather daringly opted for 'The Free Society and Its Enemies', the same title as Karl Popper's dismantling of Hegelian and Marxist philosophy. Rather than aim quite that high, the deputy prime minister attacked the Tories on marriage and Labour on the House of Lords. A combative Commons performance later saw him cut a confident and witty figure as he took down some fine potshots from MPs.

Try not to miss it during the break. There'll be plenty more of this to come next year.


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