Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Biteback bitten by unusual suspect?

Have I made Lord Ashcroft even richer?

This disturbing thought has cost me some sleep since I attended a book launch for Paul Flynn's memoirs, held in the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House.

The Unusual Suspect is published by Biteback Publishing, in which the billionaire deputy Tory chairman has a 25 per cent share.

One consolation, if I have added to his fortune by buying a copy, is that given his promise to give up his "non-dom" status, he will at least pay tax on the profits.

Paul Flynn himself is not not allowing his choice of publisher to influence his views. There is one less than flattering reference to "possibly illegal" donations from Lord Ashcroft in the book. (It was written before the donations were cleared by the Electoral Commission).

There is also this reference to the Ashcroft affair and the Public Administration Select Committee from the Flynn blog: "Why was Ashcroft rejected twice for a peerage? What did Hague promise in order to get minds changed? It is rare for anyone to reject a summons to appear before a Select Committee. Lord Ashcroft has an invitation in the post.

"David Cameron has not buried this ugly episode. The full truth has not yet been prised out of them. So far it's the misty truth, he half-truth and none of the whole truth."

The book launch itself was a jolly affair, despite the clash with a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

On first inspection, The Unusual Suspect is a good read too, despite a couple of potentially embarrassing references to me within its pages.

The book gives an interesting insight into the way political parties sometimes stitch up safe seats for favoured candidates, a manoeuvre that has sometimes involved a peerage for MPs who agree to retire at the last minute.

The Westminster rumour mill this time is that peerages are only guaranteed for those MPs who step down after the election has been called - a timetable that would allow Labour's national executive to select constituency candidates.

Flynn has just turned 75 but you will have a long wait to see Lord Flynn of Newport. He says he's "more angry and enthusiastic" than ever before and is standing in the election.

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