John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: January 17, 2017 Last modified: January 17, 2017

It takes a lot to laugh …
Eight Tory MPs and one Lib Dem last year earned more in second incomes than premier Theresa May’s £150,000 annual salary, according to the latest Register of Members’ Interests. Top of the list – surprise, surprise – was failed former Chancellor George Osborne who raked in £627,891 mainly from speaking engagement since being sacked in July. Next came another ex-Chancellor, Ken Clarke, who trousered £599, 160, followed by fellow Tories Geoffrey Cox (£577,868), Nadhim Zahawi (£359,746), Boris Johnson (£356,459), Nadine Dorries (£333,467), Nicholas Soames (“45,428) and Edward Garnier (£233,910). And the Lib Dem at ninth place in the gravy train? Step forward former Leader Nick Clegg who pocketed an extra £193,040, largely from media appearances. Failure clearly provides its own rewards.

… it takes a train to cry
Iconic pop singer Alison Moyet tweeted that higher fares on Southern railway  were reasonable “as our journeys now take so much longer.”

Desolation row
Mike Leigh cast Liz Smith in his 1971 Bleak Moments because “she had no thesp cobwebs about her at all”. Two years later he cast her again in his TV play Hard Labour to portray a downtrodden wife and charwoman. To prepare her for the part, he forced her to scrub the floors of a Territorial Army hall until her knees bled. Smith, who died on Christmas Eve aged 95, was abandoned by her father, her husband and her first theatre impresario. She retired in 2009 and asked whether she had ever been happy, replied: “No. I consider I’ve had too much struggle and too much loneliness and too much rejection.” There’s no business like show business…

Oh, sister
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has a gender pay gap of 4.6%, according to the authority’s latest audit. Full-time male employees at the GLA are paid £22.44 an hour on average, and full-time female staff are paid £21.40 an hour. The 4.6% gap is calculated according to the median average pay for full-time male and female employees as of the end of March 2016. The data found that the mean hourly pay gap across all staff at the GLA is 8.3%, with women earning £22.97 an hour compared to £25.04 an hour for men. The median hourly pay gap for all staff is 4.8%. The GLA has published its gender pay data ahead of the finalised regulations for mandatory gender pay gap reporting in the public sector. The current timeline for mandatory gender pay gap reporting requires employers to capture data on 5 April 2017 and then publish findings no later than 4 April 2018, with this cycle continuing on a yearly basis. Gender pay gap data has also been published for other GLA organisations up to March 2016. The largest recorded gender pay gap can be found in the London Legacy Development Corporation (35%), Transport for London (19.2%), and Metropolitan Police Service (11.6%). The London Fire Brigade had no gender pay gap, with both men and women earning £16.17 an hour on average. The Mayor’s Office for Crime and Policing, London and Partners, and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation recorded gender pay gaps of 3.3%, 3.0% and 1.5% respectively.

Idiot wind
Ian Dunt, editor of, acknowledged that a significant section of the centre-left simply hurling abuse at Donald Trump supporters could be counter-productive and they fail to understand the reasons behind the President-elect’s shock win. “They will often point out – correctly – that many Trump voters were motivated by legitimate economic grievances about the decline of manufacturing and were seeking any outlet for their anger which would give the mainstream a kicking,” he blogged. But Dunt went on: “People are now acting as if perhaps everything will be OK. He’ll be a standard-issue Berlusconi-type leader, corrupt but ineffectual, a joke more than a threat. Perhaps they’re right. I hope so. But we can’t tell yet. Politics is more real than most people give it credit for. It’s been so long since we in the West personally experienced a war that we sometimes act as if politics is a kind of hobby, like going to the races. It isn’t. Politics can kill you. And putting a man who does not understand the issues and is motivated by highly emotional and aggressive urges into the White House puts the whole world at risk.”

Too much of nothing
Labour’s Harriet Harman has become the longest continuously serving female MP, racking up 12,468 days in the Commons. Since Ms Harman was elected in a Peckham by-election in 1982, she has worked with seven different Labour leaders and been acting leader twice. However, it has not all been plain sailing. A few years back, in an interview with the Liverpool Echo, she mused: “Why do Merseyside women have fewer life chances than elsewhere in the UK? Is it because they’re stupid? Is it because they’re lazy?” Her pause for effect lasted too long, and the reporter answered: “No, they’re not. And the good women of Liverpool won’t appreciate your comments.”

When the deal goes down
There were 140 successful domestic and cross-border mergers or acquisitions involving UK companies worth £34.0 billion in third quarter 2016, compared with 278,  valued at £33.1 billion, in the previous quarter, according the Office for National Statistics. In the third quarter, domestic M&A activity – UK companies acquiring other UK companies – saw 72 acquisitions worth £3.2 billion, a decrease on the 152 acquisitions worth £7.2 billion in the second quarter. The top deal was the £1.4 billion takeover of Home Retail, owner of the Argos and Habitat, by supermarket giant J Sainsbury. Inward M&A – foreign companies acquiring UK companies – totalled 41 transactions worth £284 billion, down from 71 in the previous quarter but well up on their value of £220 billion. Top deal was the £24.3 billion takeover of UK semiconductor firm ARM Holdings by SoftBank Group Corp of Japan, a telecoms and internet company. Outward M&A, where UK companies acquire foreign companies, saw 27 transactions worth £2.4 billion, a marked a fall on 34 deals in the previous quarter, with their value only £1.7 billion. Most notable acquisition was the £2.2 billion takeover of US home ventilation equipment firm Nortek by the industrial turnaround specialist Melrose Industries.

Don’t think twice, it’s alright
Anthony Wells, of reported: “Opinium’s latest voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. The seven point Conservative lead is much tighter than we’ve seen in other recent polls, which have almost all had double-figure Tory leads. While the lead has dropped in this poll, I suspect the difference is methodological somehow – most of Opinium’s recent polls have had Tory leads that are smaller than those from other companies. One of the results of the 2015 polling error and polling companies’ efforts to correct them is that we can’t really tell for sure which are right. Is it that some companies haven’t done enough to correct the errors of the past, or others who have done too much?” He went on: “Given I’ve flagged up the increase in Lib Dem support in the last three polls I should also point out the absence of one here, they are down one point. We’ve had four polls since the Richmond by-election, two showing a small increase, one a small drop, one a substantial increase. Taking an average across the four polls, a very modest impact on national levels of Lib Dem support.”

Scotland blues
Ministers believed implementation of the poll tax in Scotland was “proceeding smoothly” in its early weeks, previously secret papers show. Then-Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind told the cabinet in April 1989 that the number of people who would refuse to pay would be “relatively small” north of the border. Just 20 months later, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigned. Enough said.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.