The Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: October 11, 2016 Last modified: October 25, 2016

Monster’s ball

Theresa May appears to have recognised that the Black and White Ball, the ultra-lavish annual Tory fund-raiser where table places go for up to £1,500 a head, may be a tad incendiary during an age of austerity. The event during her predecessor’s era attracted city fat cats, Cameron cronies, hedge fund managers and multi-millionaire donors. Mrs May has ordered that the event be scaled down with any subsequent fall in donations balanced by more smaller-scale events in the regions. New party chairman Patrick McLoughlin, a former Notts miner, also wants to “reach people outside the Notting Hill set cultivated in the past”. Advice that may not be pertinent to the Tories alone.


Running scared

Mark Wallace, on the conservativehome website, blogged: “Michael Gove has been roundly and unfairly mocked by some for saying in his Sky News referendum appearance that “people in this country have had enough of experts. Not only did it turn out on referendum day that most voters agreed with him, but it now turns out that the people were quite justified in not believing every scare story they were told.”


Sideways in reverse

Jane Chapman, Jeremy Corbyn’s first wife, revealed that she voted for Owen Smith in the Labour Leadership election. The Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln, said: “Last time I voted for Jeremy out of personal loyalty…. But it’s been such a painful sideshow this last year. Owen’s policies are also radical  so I don’t think there’s much difference in policies, but there’s more difference in flexibility [and] media ability.”


Poppa’s got a brand new bag

At the close of the Labour conference Gerry Sutcliffe, former minister for sport, prisons, licensing, local government and half a dozen more portfolios, spotted this correspondent struggling under the weight of luggage and technology. He kindly picked up the laptop to help. Unite’s Paul Kenny said: “From minister of state to media bag-carrier – what a comedown.”


Press to play

The Liverpool conference centre, stranded like a beached whale by the Albert Dock, won few admirers amongst delegates and visitors. “Soulless” was the most common description. Some condemned the difficulties the disabled had finding a place in the hall, while others complained about the lack of a bar. The stewards, however, were uniformally polite and helpful. Except one lady of a certain age who, when asked where the Press Room was, replied: “By the disabled toilets, where you lot belong.”


Take me high

Twenty-six executives were given remuneration packages worth £86.93 million in total in the Laabour Research Department’s latest list of FTSE 350 directors with packages worth in excess of £1 million. Three directors of upmarket builder Berkeley top the list, which is headed by the firm’s co-founder and chair Tony Pidgley on £21.49 million. That package equates to £413,250 a week. His chief executive, Rob Perrins, picked up a package of £10.99 million or £211,404 a week. Greg Fry takes third spot with £7.14 million or £137,269 a week. Year-on-year comparisons could be made for 21 of the executives, but just six saw the package grow. The top rise went to someone who is no longer at the firm. Ann-Francoise Nesmes only joined drugs group Dechra as chief financial officer in 2013, but she left in July this year to take up a similar past at Merlin Entertainments, the owners of Alton Towers. In her final year at Dechra, Nesmes saw her package increase by a third to £1.34 million or £25,673 a week. Her former boardroom colleague and chief executive at Dechra, Ian Page, received a 17.8% rise to take his package to £2.28 million or £43,808 a week. Ivan Menezes, chief executive of drinks multinational Diageo, got a 17.1% rise, taking him to £4.44 million or £85,385 a week.


Can’t even fake it

Further evidence that while the Donald Trump story may be stranger than fiction the man himself is a stranger to truth. Hillary Clinton said that her website was live fact checking the first presidential debate. Trump said that his was too. The live fact check of the Clinton-Trump head to head, conducted by America’s National Public Radio, fact checked these statements and found that the Republican standard bearer was lying. And that’s a fact.


High school confidential

Conservative Party Chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin is a strong advocate of grammar schools, even though he failed the 11-plus himself. He told John Pienaar that not getting in “didn’t hold me back”. Some might disagree with that self-analysis. Can anyone think of a better example of the twisted logic now being used by those in power who wish to turn the clock back?


Head over heels

The leading ‘Leave’ campaigner, Ruth Lea – who chaired the ‘Economists for Brexit’ group –  praised Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference. She said: “As far as I’m concerned, she ticked all the boxes. Perhaps some of my Taleban colleagues don’t feel quite like that, the real handbangers. But she said what I wanted to hear.”

Jump then fall

Ministers have been working behind the scenes with UK airports to expand a “fast-track” scheme which allows passengers who pay a £17.50 surcharge to jump lengthy queues at border security. Similar schemes have been implemented for decades abroad in tinpot dictatorships where the levy is extracted by men with machine-guns or shark-eyed fixers. Its known as extortion.


Dirty joker

Rumour of the week is that David Cameron could join the board of Queen’s Park Rangers, whose chairman is his crony Tony Fernandez, owner of AirAsia. The ex-PM is an avowed Aston Villa fan, although he once, in what his aides described as a “brain fade” moment, declared his support for West Ham. David Miliband became a director of Sunderland FC. It is nice to see our one-time leaders leaving the dirty world of politics for the squeaky-clean world of football.


A hard rain’s gonna fall

Ian Blunt, of, cut through some of the garbage spouted about Theresa May’s Brexit deadline speech. He blogged: “No-one expected any mechanism for the legal issue apart from what May is proposing. In a debate beset by disagreements, it is one of the only things people agree on. [It’s] being said … this will be difficult for hard Brexit supporters on the [Tory] right to stomach. Actually, [they] have always proposed what May is doing and soft Brexiters have agreed with them. The distinction between the positions is that hard Brexiters don’t see how many problems even this simple solution raises. May’s plan is essentially a bridge between legal status quos. An awful lot of EU law was implemented in the UK by adding it to the European Communities Act 1972, which basically said that we would abide by EU law. May’s plan – sometimes called ‘snapshooting’ or ‘grandfathering’ – involves passing a new repeal bill which would incorporate all of that law into British law, then cutting the automatic legal link with the EU and repealing that which we don’t like at our leisure further down the line.”

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.