Tory hound ate my polecat

The dog days of August, and the Diary has a shaggy dog story to tell. And a welcome return appearance for one of this column's former stalwarts, the former grant-maintained schools supremo Andrew Turner.

Mr Turner, who is now the Isle of Wight's Conservative MP, had led a quiet and blameless life in the Commons until this week - when he was catapulted back to fame with a vengeance, for readers of the Daily Telegraph at any rate.

According to the paper, his Jack Russell, Bert, savaged to death a pet polecat called Socks who was being walked on a lead at the island's annual show.

Mr Turner told reporters that he had emerged from a crowded tent and the leads of his two dogs became tangled. "I was trying to disentangle them and Bert obviously felt the lead go slack at the same time as he saw the polecat about 20 yards away. He was on to it before I could stop him," he said.

The polecat's owner, Patricia Price - who just happens to be a teacher - told the paper that it was an "unfortunate accident" when the dog's instincts just took over.

But there is an eerie prescience in Mr Turner's comments during a parliamentary debate on red squirrels just six weeks ago. "I - or rather my dog - have found them in Northwood Park in Cowes. I am pleased to say that squirrels are faster than terriers."

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