• A time for tough love, and no one has been better placed to dish it out than the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. On Monday the Telegraph claimed that, as his contribution to the latest round of spending reductions, he was prepared to cut harder and deeper on the welfare bill. But one might have thought he’d have a better grasp of the need people will sometimes have for public assistance. And if in doubt, he can always ask the relatives. For over the years, the farm business operating off the country estate part-owned by Duncan Smith’s son – with the minister’s wife as a trustee – has received well over a million pounds in taxpayer subsidies. Swanbourne Home Farms, run in partnership between the minister’s in-laws, Baron and Baroness Cottesloe, brother-in-law Thomas, and cousin Richard Brooks, has been given €1,517,535 over a 10-year period in funding from the EU. It has also been the recipient of grants understood to be worth tens of thousands of pounds from Natural England. Described by the EU as “income support” for farmers, these common agricultural policy payments were established by the 1957 treaty of Rome to ensure “fair standard of living for the agricultural community”. None of it goes to the Duncan Smiths. “Neither Iain Duncan Smith or his wife receive any income whatsoever from the Swanbourne Estate,” his spokesman says. And few would quibble with the payments themselves. Still, it shows that the best of us need a hand from time to time.
• Never let a good crisis go to waste, they say, and the Woolwich crisis was barely over before officials resurrected their masterplan to snoop on everyone’s emails. Some were a little too enthusiastic. In jumped the Twitter-meister from the department for business (BIS). “Funny how those who know about the threats the UK faces, security, police, home secs of all parties, are clear about the need for data intercept,” the tweeter said. That’s a strange thing for BIS to be tweeting, responded James Ball, the Guardian’s data editor. One, isn’t that the responsibility of the Home Office; and two, surely Vince Cable is dead against data snooping. At which point the original BIS tweet disappeared. And that would have been that had Ball not preserved a screen grab. The anguish from BIS was palpable. “Please undo, tweeted in error,” was the plea. “Tweet in haste, repent at leisure,” Ball replied.
• Enemies on all sides; no wonder our police officers are in combative mood. Why, they have even taken to fighting against themselves. Stung by the decision of the Police Federation to undertake a review of how it operates, the constables’ central committee decided to withhold its fees in protest. The revolt didn’t last long. On 24 April the constables announced that peace had broken out, and the fees would be paid. But the decision didn’t have the impact one might have expected at HQ. Someone had apparently forgotten to stop the standing order. So the fee payment had gone through anyway.
• The Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” affair continues to cast a shadow over the relationship between the police and politics, with 10 officers from four forces under investigation. Stakes are high. There will be winners and losers. Still, one does hope the whole thing can be sorted out in an atmosphere of calm. And the very thing we don’t need is the sort of recklessness being displayed by a very senior Tory who is calling in favours, attempting to dig dirt on selected targets – cops, journalists – and letting it be known that he intends to “get” the Met commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. This is a time for cool heads, not hotheads, surely.
• Finally, as Mike Hancock, the libidinous MP for Portsmouth South, faces a Lib Dem investigation, fellow beardies voice concerns. They have no wish to pre-empt the outcome, says Keith Flett. But still the Beard Liberation Front is “writing to ask him if he will consider shaving off his beard before he does the image of the hirsute further damage”. It would be the right thing for him to do. So absolutely no one’s holding their breath.