John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: April 12, 2017 Last modified: April 11, 2017

She’s leaving home

The exodus from Jeremy Corbyn’s office is turning into a flood. Nancy Platts, the trade union liaison officer for the Labour Leader’s office, has handed in her notice after 18 months. Spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin is leaving after less than a year to return to his former post with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. Head of stakeholder engagement Jayne Fisher, formerly of Sinn Fein, is quitting for unexplained reasons. Mike Hatchett, Corbyn’s head of economic policy, resigned to join the government’s Brexit department. Speech-writing aide Dave Prescott has switched to a campaign role. And Simon Fletcher quit as campaigns chief in February to pursue “other projects and opportunities”. This seems rather more than, as Corbinistas claim, “restructuring”.

Wait

Wales remains a country where major decisions are being taken that are not reflective of the country’s diversity, according to a new report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The 2017 edition of Who runs Wales? looks at key areas of Welsh life, including politics, local government and the private sector, to assess if those making the major decisions that affect people are representative of the people who live there. Key findings from the report include: only 6% of chief executives (or equivalent) at the top 100 businesses in Wales are women; only 12% of chief and deputy chief constables are women; only 14% of chief executives at local authorities, only 26% of councillors and only 9% of council leaders are women in Wales are women. The report’s findings also show that disabled people made up only 3.7% of the public appointments (including reappointments) in Wales in 2015-16. And in 2015, the employment rate for non-disabled people rose by 8%, but the picture for disabled people remained the same. While June Milligan, commissioner for Wales at the EHRC, was able to report some progress, overall, “women are still significantly under-represented at the most senior levels in most sectors in Wales”. And she recognised that “there is important work to be done to support access for disabled people to employment and public appointments and to tackle discrimination, wherever that exists.”.

Think for yourself

That old political warhorse Michael Heseltine is still causing mayhem within the Tory ranks. The former deputy prime minister told Westminster’s House magazine that he refused to vote for Zac Goldsmith in last year’s mayoral election, accusing the Tory candidate of “betraying” London over his support for Brexit; said he hopes that George Osborne will not abandon his ambitions to be prime minister, predicting the “exceptional” former Chancellor will return to frontline politics; compares Theresa May to Margaret Thatcher, although “this lady is for turning”; and warned the Right that “in the end the Conservative party always returns to its one-nation roots”. He also advised Mrs May against calling a snap election, warning there is “a deep and bitter fury by the 48%” that could lead to the Tories’ defeat. Bring it on.

Nowhere man

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge said he was “delighted” at the resignation of Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP. “I believe he was not genuinely interested in representing UKIP in Westminster, but I think he needs to step down and call a by-election,” Etheridge said. “He was elected twice on a UKIP ticket, with UKIP resources and the hard work and shoe leather of UKIP activists.” Previously, Carswell had vowed to “absolutely” fight the next general election as a UKIP candidate, speaking after UKIP leader Paul Nuttall urged senior figures to “stick together”. Nuttall, who unsuccessfully stood at Stoke Central, said he needed time to sort out the “mess” his party was in. Those whom the gods want to destroy…

No reply

A Newsnight investigation into the government’s dealings with Nissan has hit a roadblock. Nissan’s huge Sunderland presence was a major concern after last year’s Brexit vote as the plant exists as part of a vast European supply chain. The carmaker’s announcement, on 27 October 2016, that it was staying in the UK was a huge relief for ministers. But there are questions about what the government promised the company. A letter was sent from the government to Nissan before the announcement. To find out, Newsnight applied for the letters under the Freedom of Information Act. They were not forthcoming. The government says it is committed to releasing the key letter, but not yet. It contains, we are told, commercially sensitive information, and will be published as soon as  its sensitivity has been eroded . That may be a long time.

We can work it out

Thousands of leaflets were printed and delivered declaring: “Three reasons to back Beverley Nielsen for West Midlands Labour Mayor.” The trouble is, she’s the Lib Dem candidate.

Ticket to ride

Lord Colgrain was elected to the House of Lords, seeing off 26 other hereditary peers in a by-election. Lord who? The 66-year-old’s ‘manifesto’ read: “My areas of expertise and particular interest are employment and financial services, following 30 years in the financial executive search sector, and rural affairs, regeneration and diversification, as partner in a family farming and property business.” The Conservative, an executive head-hunter and former High Sheriff of Kent, is the great-grandson of the Scottish banker Colin Campbell, for whom the title was created in 1946. The poll, in which all peers actively sitting were entitled to vote, was triggered by the death of Lord Lyell. Colgrain emerged victorious from a crowded, 27-strong field, beating candidates including Lord Stockton, grandson of former premier Harold Macmillan who has stood unsuccesfuly no less than 14 times, and Earl Lloyd-George of Dwfor, the great grandson of the former Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George. Other unsuccessful contenders include Lord Harlech, the 30-year old grandson of David Ormsby-Gore, the former Conservative politician and British Ambassador to the United States in the 1960s, who had a close friendship with Jackie Kennedy. Lyell was one of the 92 hereditary peers – including two holders of royal offices who are ex officio members – who remained in the Lords in 1999 after the remainder were expelled in reforms carried out by the Blair government There is no truth in the rumour that broadcasters are planning a new reality TV series entitled ‘I’m a Hereditary, Get Me Into There’.

What goes on

Tribune has always had a sneaking admiration for political mavericks, left, right and centre. Step forward Piers Dixon, a Right-wing Thatcherite, stockbroker and Tory MP for Truro between 1966 and October1974 who has died aged 88. He joined Keith Joseph at the Centre for Policy Studies and between them they created the failed economic strategy later known as ‘monetarism’. Thousands of miners, steel and shipyard workers paid the price. As an MP he robustly argued against VAT exemption on children’s clothes and ardently defended City malpractice. However, his third wife was the daughter of John Cronin, the socialist MP for Loughborough. Far more importantly, Dixon also, against the odds, successfully put through the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It allowed ex-offenders to have no obligation to tell future employers about previous convictions, and is still regarded as an important element of penal reform. Go figure..

Revolution No 9

In another blow to the gig economy model, an employment tribunal has ruled that a bicycle courier for the delivery company Excel is a worker, and is therefore entitled to holiday pay. Bicycle courier Andrew Boxer contended that he was employed by Excel as a worker rather than as an independent contractor, and was therefore entitled to workers’ rights, such as holiday pay. Boxer, who had been working for Excel since September 2013, was seeking payment for a weeks’ holiday that he took in March 2016. The tribunal found that Boxer was a worker for Excel and that the organisation had acted unlawfully by denying him holiday pay. Excel, which entered voluntary liquidation and has since been acquired by CitySprint, has been ordered to pay Boxer £321.16 in holiday pay without deductions. Employment judge Wade found that Boxer was paid a non-negotiable, fixed rate for the work he did during set hours. The business model required him to work five days a week, performing set jobs that were allocated by a controller. Boxer would be expected to stand by between jobs, and if he wished to change location, he would need permission from the controller. The controller would expect Boxer to be available during the working day to pick up jobs, occasionally being required to work without breaks. Any flexibility in working hours or time off would require prior notice and arranging with the controller. Wade concluded that despite Boxer providing his own “tools of the trade”, such as a bicycle, mobile phone and protective clothing, he was not providing his services on his own account as a business undertaking, and was not entering in to any additional business contracts.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune’s diary columnist.