John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: May 11, 2017 Last modified: May 10, 2017

The clairvoyant
The Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges – son of ex-Labour MP and twice Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson – confidently predicted Theresa May would quit due to ill-health. She called the election two days later. He explained: “No-one saw this coming.” Author Harry Mount was more sanguine when the PM announced the contest: “Minor story. Senior manager in SW1 applies for her own job.”

Judas be my guide
No 10’s efforts to sideline Boris Johnson during the election campaign have clearly failed. The blonde motormouth snatched headlines by describing Jeremy Corbyn as a “mutton-headed old mugwump”. Johnson’s phrase was lifted from Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. However, “mugwump” is a Native American word meaning “kingpin” or “very important person”. Corbyn should be pleased.

The prophecy
Ladbrokes are offering odds of 7/1 against Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister in June. The bookies also place him 250/1 against becoming the new Doctor Who. Corbyn is fond of pointing out that the odds of him becoming Labour Leader in 2015 were 200/1. Point taken. But political spread betting gives him more chance of possessing the keys to the Tardis than No 10.

Only the good die young
Arron Banks, UKIP’s largest donor during the 2015 campaign, disagrees with his party leader Paul Nuttall on a pledge to ‘ban the burka’, saying it would infringe religious freedom. However, he went on to say that – unlike Nuttall – he was in favour of an end to Muslim immigration. Banks confirmed he is seeking the UKIP candidacy for the Clacton constituency.

El Dorado
In hopefully a sign of things to come, shareholders in energy firm Drax have voted against the pay packet of its chief executive. Over a third voted down last year’s £1.58 million package packet for group chief executive Dorothy Thompson, which gave her a 26.7% rise. However, Thompson’s package only places her 30th out of the 38 executives featured in the latest scrutiny of boardroom greed. Rakesh Kapoor, CEO of health, hygiene and household goods group Reckitt Benckiser, tops the table with £14.61 million,  equivalent to £280,942 a week. Over £4 million behind on £10.56 million comes Erik Engstrom, CEO of information multinational RELX. That’s £203,135 a week. Nicandro Durante, CEO of British American Tobacco (BAT), takes third spot with a £7.63 million package, or £146,730 a week. Holding up the rest of table in 38th place is David Ritchie of Bovis Homes on £1.03 million, or £19,788 a week. Ritchie resigned in January 2017 after the housebuilder issued a profits warning. Such increases came at a time when average weekly earnings in the whole economy were rising by just 1.9% in 2016. Clive Washbourn, who heads the marine division of specialist insurers Beazley, saw shrinkage of 51.7% in his package, but he still received £2.06 million, or £39,692 a week.

Brave new world
The number of internships available and their damaging effect on social mobility has been dramatically underestimated, according to a new report that blames some firms for reserving lucrative job opportunities for friends and family. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that while around 11,000 internships were advertised each year, the real number on offer was closer to 70,000. Not only do many of these 60,000 additional positions not offer meaningful learning opportunities or working conditions, they entrench privilege because they are largely inaccessible to those without connections or know-how, it has been claimed. They also discourage businesses from investing in graduate or other permanent recruitment. Many such internships are also unpaid; the IPPR said that it has been estimated that one in five does not offer a wage. Publishing, media and the arts were named as particularly inaccessible to graduates from poorer backgrounds, while the creative industries as a whole had a high concentration of internships.

No more lies
Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin does not agree with Philip Hammond that previous Conservative manifesto pledges constrained the Treasury’s ability to manage the economy. Earlier the Chancellor said: “It was self-evidently clear that the commitments that were made in the 2015 manifesto did and do today constrain the ability to manage the economy flexibly.” But McLoughlin said: “No. The simple fact is that what we’ve got to do is: we’ve got to do the best things for the economy, and we will be setting out in our manifesto in a few weeks’ time what the policies will be for the next parliament.” The 2015 Toy manifesto committed the party not to raise income tax, National Insurance, or VAT. The government has refused to say whether or not such a ‘lock’ will feature in its manifesto for the coming campaign.’
Piece of mind
The latest excess of South Africa’s President Zuma shows that he has ignored the wise advice of ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada, whose obituary appeared in Tribune last month. A year ago, Kathrada wrote to Zuma, typically casting himself as merely “a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC and broader Congress movement since the 1940s” and admitting the pain that writing was causing him. He spoke directly to Zuma, and indirectly to South Africans: “The position of president is one that must at all times unite this country behind a vision and programme that seeks to make tomorrow a better day than today for all South Africans. Now that the court has found that the president failed to uphold‚ defend and respect the constitution as the supreme law‚ how should I relate to my president? If we are to continue to be guided by growing public opinion and the need to do the right thing‚ would he not seriously consider stepping down? I am not a political analyst‚ but I am now driven to ask: ‘Dear Comrade President‚ don’t you think your continued stay as president will only serve to deepen the crisis of confidence in the government of the country?’ Is it asking too much to express the hope that you will … consider stepping down? If not‚ Comrade President‚ are you aware that your outstanding contribution to the liberation struggle stands to be severely tarnished if the remainder of your term as president continues to be dogged by crises and a growing public loss of confidence in the ANC and government as a whole? I know that if I were in the president’s shoes‚ I would step down with immediate effect.”

Wildest dreams
Karen Danczuk is hoping to become an MP after applying to be a Labour candidate at the election on 8 June. Mrs Danczuk, who found fame posting ‘selfies’ on Twitter, hopies to be chosen to stand for Labour in the marginal Bury North constituency. The 33-year-old served as a Labour councillor from 2012 to 2015 in her home town of Rochdale, a seat held by Conservative David Nuttall who had a majority of 378 at the last general election. She waived her right to anonymity last year after her brother was jailed for raping her as a child. She then became patron of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. “Politics is changing, you only have to look across Europe and the rest of the world,” she said. “Parliament needs more common sense and someone who can connect with voters. I really believe I’m a voice of the people.” Mrs Danczuk is estranged from her husband, Simon Danczuk, the sitting MP in Rochdale. He was suspended by Labour in 2015, pending an investigation, following revelations he exchanged explicit messages with a 17-year-old girl. Who says politics is boring?

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.