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Troubling timepieces - why minister's watch gift backfired

Bad times for Baroness Kramer, who has had to say sorry for an ill-judged gift to a Taiwanese politician.

Unbeknownst to the Lib Dem peer, watches are considered highly taboo gifts in Chinese culture, as they are seen as implying that time is running out for the recipient (rumours that it was originally intended for Nick Clegg remain unconfirmed). 

The watch was given to the newly elected mayor of Taipei,  Ko Wen-je, who joked that he might offload it to a scrap metal dealer, although a spokesman later confirmed it was actually in storage.

In a textbook example of Lib Dems sort of apologising, the Baroness issued the following mea culpa.

"I'm sorry. We learn something new each day. I had no idea a gift like this could be seen as anything other than positive. In the UK a watch is precious - because nothing is more important than time."

'Pub Landlord' pips Miliband in leadership stakes

It’s been a day of mixed poll blessings for the Labour leader.

Despite a new survey in the Standard finding Ed Miliband’s party could be on course to win a handful of new seats in the capital, the latest polling puts him behind the ‘Pub Landlord’ Al Murray in the best prime minister stakes.

More than a quarter of those asked said the TV comic would make the best PM, a fraction behind David Cameron and well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Poor Nick Clegg made it into last place with just 7 in 100 people backing the Lib Dem leader.

The survey for Hotwire has Mr Cameron on 28.7%, Mr Murray on 26.3%, Mr Miliband on 14.9%, Nigel Farage on 12.4%, Natalie Bennett on 10.5% and Mr Clegg on 7.2%.

Grayling 'puts the d*** into tat'

To finish off what has been a bruising few days for Chris Grayling, former Tory MP Jerry Hayes has decided to stick the boot in.

Writing on his blog, the qualified barrister says: “Grayling's attempt to curtail judicial review shows he puts the d*** into tat. This is one s*** that will have to be flushed after the election.”

Labour’s Sadiq Khan was quick to jump on the spat, calling it an “astonishing blue on blue attack”. 

The Lord Chancellor, an ex-BBC journalist turned management consultant, was forced to defend his lack of legal expertise earlier in the week, saying it did in fact make him a more impartial judge.

IFS chief rejects starring role in Tory campaign video

The mild-mannered director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, has taken exception to being used as a tool in a Tory campaign video. 

The following snippet appears at the front of a familiar-sounding video on the party's YouTube channel. The clip is part of a montage of various Labour figures talking about the terrifying prospects of tax rises under an Ed Miliband premiership. 

 

 

But Mr Johnson has said he wants the video removed, saying his comments about public spending have been - heaven forbid - quoted selectively to make a political point.

"I was a bit surprised, I certainly wasn't given any warning of it and, of course, the clips that you've just heard are small clips of a much broader and more balanced interview that I gave," he told the World at One this afternoon. 

He went a bit further and said he would like the party to remove the offending video from its YouTube, even though he conceded he had found the mash-up of clips "quite funny". 

Tory MP flattened by cage fighter

 

The rough and tumble of parliamentary debate is one thing - but for one Tory MP things got a whole lot more physical when he did battle with one of the UK's foremost cage fighters.

 

  

Wycombe's Steve Baker clearly had no qualms about getting a pummelling though, as he posted the not entirely flattering clips to his own website.

Why the sudden interest in getting stuck in? The motorbike-loving MP assures readers that the "fast approach of the general election is purely coincidental".