John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: March 25, 2017 Last modified: March 25, 2017

Bad news comes to town
Former Chancellor and soon-to-be-newspaper-editor George Osborne has been busy on the lucrative speaker’s tour since being sacked, and has picked up a nice big earner from a financial services group. The latest Register of Member’s Interests shows Osborne has trousered over £786,000 for 14 speeches. As they were made mainly abroad he was paid travel and accommodation costs on top. He never attended any one function for more than than 3.5 hours, according to his declarations. He did, however, pass £15,081 received for one speech to a Tatton constituency-based charity. What a generous man. And there is more big money to come. From 1 February 2017, he became an adviser on the global economy to The BlackRock Investment Institute. This post will pay £162,500 a quarter – £650,000 a year – in return for a commitment of 12 days a quarter. He also expects to receive a share stake in BlackRock in the future. That works out at £13,000 a day. Which dwarfs his £74,000 annual parliamentary salary. But his constituents, the good people of Tatton, are used to such grotesque greed – his predecessor was the notorious Neil “cash for questions” Hamilton. The difference is that Hamilton took his ill-gotten gains in brown envelopes, while Osborne needs a fleet of white vans.

I am a child
Al Murray, the politically-inclined Pub Landlord, greeted the launch of George Galloway’s first children’s book with some helpful suggestions for follow-ups. They included: The Cat in the Hat, We’re Going on a Blair Hunt, and The Zionist Witch and the Wardrobe.

Sell out
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) involving UK companies was down, but their value was up, according to official figures for the fourth quarter of 2016. There were 106 successful domestic and cross-border mergers/acquisitions involving UK companies worth £88.3 billion, compared with 232 (£37.5 billion) in the previous quarter, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Inward M&A – foreign companies acquiring UK companies – totalled 37 (£83.3 billion), down from 65 transactions in the previous quarter, but well up on their value of £31 billion. The one large merger of the final quarter was that between UK-based drinks multinational SABMiller and its Belgium-based rival Anheuser-Busch InBev in a £79 billion deal. Outward M&A, (UK companies acquiring foreign companies) saw 13 successful transactions worth £3.1 billion, a fall from 49 deals (£3.1 billion) in the previous quarter. The main deal was the £2.2 billion merger of bookies Ladbrokes with Jersey-based rival Gala Coral Group. Domestic M&A activity – UK companies acquiring other UK companies – saw 56 acquisitions (£1.9 billion), a decrease on the 118 (£3.4 billion) in the third quarter. The largest deal was in financial services: the £935 million purchase of Abbey Life by Phoenix Life.

No wonder
Members of the House of Lords who claim perks without doing any work will not be “named and shamed”. Lords speaker Baroness D’Souza spent months investigating peers who collected their £300 daily allowance but did not take part in debates. One member was alleged to have kept a taxi running outside while signing in to collect the allowance. But Baroness D’Souza shelved the probe to avoid a “press storm”. Which is exactly what she got.

Living with war
The late Brenda Wickham, who has died aged 92, opposed the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq wars and favoured a united Ireland. She campaigned for the rights of travellers and women, and for comprehensive education. So, name the party of this formidable woman. Despite the left-wing causes she advocated, she was a long-serving Tory county councillor in Buckinghamshire, a keen member of the Countryside Alliance and liked Margaret Thatcher for breaking the gender glass ceiling. Which goes to show you can’t always judge a person by their party – or beliefs. Both sides of the political divide have mavericks who can make common cause with their supposed political enemies, which is something, in Labour terms, which seems beyond the ken of both Progress and Momentum. That was demonstrated in the blood-soaked post mortem into the party’s byelection defeat in Copeland.

Extra, extra
Lib Dem peer Lord Paddick was right to highlight the dilemma of police forces facing ever-greater demands with fewer resources. However, at the tender age of 49 he retired as deputy assistant commissioner of the Met with a tax-free lump sum of £400,000 and an £84,000 annual pension. As in any institution, the top brass always put themselves first.

This note’s for you
Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, the May Day Festival of Solidarity will return to Barnsley, bringing together musicians and poets, trade unions and campaigning groups from across the UK to celebrate International Workers Day. It will take place at The Old School House on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 April 2017. Headlining the event on the Saturday night will be legendary band The Men They Couldn’t Hang, who will be appearing fresh from a massive gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London a couple of weeks earlier. Sunday night’s headline slot will feature a special acoustic set from the brilliant Steve Mason. The concert was the brainchild of Barnsley musician and trade union activist Tony Wright of band The Hurriers. “I’ve wanted to bring an event like this together, for many years. There is a growing scene in the UK of bands and singers with a Socialist aspect to their music and a growing sense of community amongst the musicians. I’m so proud that we’ve managed to gather so many of them together for this event.” A donation from each £25 ticket will go to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Ain’t it the truth
John McDonnell said MPs who were glued to their phones during the Budget debate were “discourteous”. He called on Commons Speaker John Bercow to intervene after waves of MPs were seen tapping away during Philip Hammond’s statement and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response. McDonnell also criticised Budget jokes at Labour’s expense, saying the country needs a chancellor not a comedian. Which in itself is a pretty good joke from a man who threw Mao’s Little Red Book from the dispatch box.
Let’s impeach the president
The pick of PJ O’Rourke’s take on the US Presidential elections – his book How The Hell Did This Happen – is his observation that Trump “would be Robespierre if he could spell it”. His endorsement of Hillary Clinton, however, was not unqualified: “…better the she-ape of neo-Marxism than the flying monkeys’ king on his 757, going to and fro, with gold-plated seatbelt buckles, talking nativist, isolationist, mercantile, bigoted, rude, vulgar and obscene crap”.

The public administration and constitutional affairs committee has ruled that there remains an absence of safeguards in place to prevent a Prime Minister from disregarding Cabinet procedures in the conduct of foreign and military policy, which was evident in the lead up to a possible military action in Iraq, and was exposed by the Chilcot inquiry. The committee’s report was titled: “Lessons Still to be Learned From the Chilcot Inquiry.” However, according to parliamentary printers, almost no-one has read it. So no lessons will be learnt.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.