German unamused by Tory joker

IT'S hardly the language of parliamentarians to describe a colleague as making "a face like a dog's bottom." But that was the charge levied by Conservative Euro MP Dan Hannan in an uncompromising attack on German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering, who was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset.

IT'S hardly the language of parliamentarians to describe a colleague as making "a face like a dog's bottom." But that was the charge levied by Conservative Euro MP Dan Hannan in an uncompromising attack on German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering, who was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset.

The offending words were written in a Sunday newspaper article and caused a flurry of anger in Brussels and Strasbourg, and brought a humiliating apology from the Tory Party delegation.

Following on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Nazi jibe against another German MEP, Mr Hannan's words went down like a lead balloon. Tory deputy leader John Bowis told colleagues in an e-mail that likening Herr Poettering – a member of the coalition of right-of-centre parties to which the Tories also belong – to a dog's bottom "may, or may not, have been amusing to the article's British readership. The `wit' was, I am afraid, lost in the translation.

"I have apologised unreservedly on behalf of our delegation, assured Hans-Gert there was no personal offence intended and that it was simply a quip that has been misunderstood."


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And Tory MEPs are admonished: "Traditional British courtesy expects that we do not gratuitously offend our party colleagues."

Meanwhile in London, the Tories have launched a sale of the century complete with cut-price deals they hope will swell the party's coffers and membership. Supporters will be offered special discount deals on wines and champagne, credit cards, telephones and internet services, insurance and roadside breakdown recovery.

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"In an increasingly competitive business, we have to offer the right package of policies and benefits if we are to encourage people to sign-up as members of our party," saysParty chairman Theresa May.

Affinity deals with BT Openworld, Churchill, MBNA, NTconnect, the RAC and Jeroboams, the official wine supplier to the party, have been concluded to save supporters' money, generate new income for the party, and broaden fundraising and membership.

"These deals are some of the most competitive around. Together they make up the most comprehensive package of benefits offered by any political party in the UK," crows Mrs May. "Our new credit card out-performs all the deals offered by other parties - with no annual fee, up to 59 days interest free credit and a balance transfer rate of 0% for the first six months."

n My wife has just embarked on the Atkins diet, and reports a loss of around 10lb in the first two weeks. Giving up bread, cakes and potatoes I can understand, but I don't know how eating cream and frying bacon in butter can be possibly good for anyone.

The Atkins craze has swept through the Tory Party as well, with Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin joining in. Mr Letwin, the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has seen 1½ stone fall off him.

He reports somewhat cheerily: "I feel so much better but the big test will be whether I can stick to the diet and stop the weight re-appearing."

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