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Richard Drax and the Budget X-File

Martyn Oates | 19:34 UK time, Saturday, 26 March 2011

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Richard Drax MP

Richard Drax

On Wednesday the Chancellor painted the broad brush strokes of his Budget across the national canvas.

The subsequent arrival in my in box of an email from Richard Drax MP promised a more intimate and personal take on the contents of the red box.

"Richard Drax: A Budget for Growth, Jobs and Families" - the title of the press release almost suggested the Conservative MP for South Dorset had drawn up the Budget himself.

Ploughing into the body of the text, though, I was puzzled to find a man so generously endowed in the name department - his full surname is Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax - simply described as "X MP".

"X MP" welcomed the Budget, apparently. Indeed, a few paragraphs later we were told in no uncertain terms exactly what "X MP" had said when he was welcoming the Budget.

Things then took an even more confusing turn as the press release urged readers to contact "XXX on XXX" for further information.

The Editor's Notes which followed finally shook the cat's claws clear of the bag:

"Measures to promote growth in (INSERT REGION): (insert regional measures here from Budget brief).

It looked like a national summary of the Budget's highlights produced by the Treasury or Conservative HQ... because it was. Albeit with some modest scope for personalisation - a bit like a Christmas round robin in reverse.

Either that or a quadrupled-barrelled MP, major landowner and former television reporter is making a late and unlikely bid for anonymity.

Mr Drax has confirmed that it was the former. He told me he'd taken the unusual step of using the template to ensure all the Budget details were correct.

He also made the very reasonable point that getting your head round the details quickly on Budget day itself is a herculean task. As somebody trying to do something very similar myself on Wednesday, I can sympathise.

A second email arrived soon after which included Mr Drax's personal thoughts as well as the official Government line.

How do I know the whole thing wasn't scripted by the Government's policy police?

The call for Britain to leave the European Union rather gives the game away.

Money down the drain? - Alison Seabeck declares an interest

Sue Wilkinson | 16:20 UK time, Tuesday, 15 March 2011

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The recent Westminster adjournment debate on Water and Sewerage Charges understandably attracted a lot of attention because of its subject matter.

It also saw the Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, Alison Seabeck, declare an indirect interest. She pointed Hon. Members to a declaration in the Register of Members' Financial Interests by her "Right Honourable Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich" - aka her partner, former Labour minister, Nick Raynsford.

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On the face of it, barely a matter of even passing interest. But just a few days earlier, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner had ordered her to apologise to the House for failing to disclose another of Mr Raynsford's interests.

This had arisen from a debate on fire prevention; the interest in question being Mr Raynsford's presence on the board of the Fire Protection Agency.

The precise nature of Mr Raynsford's interests in matters aquatic, however, remained undisclosed - notwithstanding some jocular probing from St Ives MP, Andrew George.

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I direct hon. readers of this blog, or at least those still sufficiently curious, to the parliamentary Register of Members' Financial Interests.

Why just hug a hoodie when you can be a hoodie?

Martyn Oates | 12:49 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

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Recent history is full of salutary lessons for the politician bent on capturing the popular Zeitgeist.

There was, of course, William Hague's infamous brush with a baseball cap in 1997.

A decade - and three Conservative leaders - later David Cameron found himself urging people to show more understanding for the youth of today, even when the youth in question chose to sport a hooded top: a message which swiftly morphed into "Hug a Hoodie" in the hands of Labour's caricaturists.

St Austell & Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert now seems to have taken a leaf out of both these eminent men's books and has, in the process, taken things to a whole new level.

At a recent demonstration against Cornwall Council's budget cuts the Lib Dem MP spurned the old whistle and flute... and donned a hoodie himself.

Our cameraman caught this political fashion statement on film.

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