John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: June 6, 2017 Last modified: June 6, 2017

What is and what should never be
Surprise, surprise – the Conservatives received the largest amount of money in the first official week of the general election campaign, followed by Labour. The Conservatives were given £4.1m and Labour £2.7m between 3 and 9 May, according to the Electoral Commission. Donations to the Lib Dems totalled £180,000 and for UKIP the figure was £48,000. The Women’s Equality Party reported a donation worth £20,544 – more than the Green Party, which received £15,000. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) also reported a loan of £10,000. The largest single donation to the Conservatives was £900,000, made by John Griffin, founder of taxi firm Addison Lee. City money and hedge fund managers fill the next two slots: John Armitage gave £0.5 million to the party, while Andrew Law gave £250,000. The top corporate donation of £400,000 came from property developer and housebuilder JS Bloor (Services). Overall, the Conservative Party, with £4.11 million in donations, received £2.43 million more than Labour, with £2.68 million in first election week. Labour’s largest donor was the Unite union, which donated £2.4m in total. One non-party campaign group, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, was given £65,000. Ahead of the 2015 election, almost £2.5 million in donations were reported to the Electoral Commission in the first reporting period.

Dancing days
Theresa May stood for election in North West Durham in 1992 alongside current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. At Consett Working Men’s Club she was refused entry because of its men-only policy, a ban on women which is still enforced. Mrs May won 28% of the vote in North West Durham – a score that has not been beaten by a Conservative candidate there since.

Out on the tiles
Talk about counting your chickens… The spiritual home of Toryism – the Carlton Club – has organised a champagne-fuelled victory dinner for June 8, starting several hours before the polls close. The prime minister is reportedly furious at the triumphalism involved. Or, dare we say it, the hubris.

Dazed and confused
Speaking in Bridgend, South Wales, Mrs May said a vote for the Tories would mean the UK could strike global trade deals. But, appearing to get her words mixed up, the PM added a Tory government also wanted to lead the world in “preventing tourism”. Surely some mistake?

That’s the way
Boris Johnson has been kept locked up in a metaphorical broom cupboard for the election campaign. That is not surprising – he had to apologise after he caused a “livid” reaction in a worshipper in a Sikh temple by discussing his enthusiasm for a boost in the whisky trade, apparently without realising that alcohol is forbidden under some Sikh teachings. The foreign secretary  was visiting a Sikh temple in St George in Bristol when he made remarks about ending tariffs on whisky traded between the UK and India. In a BBC recording of the event, a female worshipper can be heard taking him to task, asking: “How dare you talk about alcohol in a Sikh temple?” After the unidentified woman also told him about alcoholism in her family, he apologised several times.

Former Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe, a candidate in that party’s second leadership election of 2016, told BBC 5 live that he would now vote for Theresa May rather than his former party leader, Paul Nuttall. No further comment was necessary, but Nigel Farage couldn’t resist. He said that that May is now using the same language he has been using for 20 years. The message was clear, as Lib Dem Tom Brake said: “A vote for Theresa May is now a vote for Nigel Farage. There’s no need for Ukip because the Conservatives have become Ukip.”

Black dog
Talking of election trail gaffes, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron took his four-year-old dog Jaspar out with him on a visit to Cambridge. At one point he told a party activist to “smell my spaniel” for what reason is still unknown. He also fell over on live TV to the joy of viewers, while footage of a row with an angry Brexit voter went viral on social media.

The media across the Channel has not succumbed to Mrs May’s charms. Le Figaro London correspondent Florentin Collomp wrote she is “treating the election as another Brexit referendum”, and described her as a “secretive and authoritarian leader… at the peak of her power, who has crushed the opposition to left and right, as well as in her own party”. Christian Zaschke of Munich’s centre-left Suddeutsche Zeitung profiled the PM as an “Ice Queen… who has mastered the art of cold revenge, and relentlessly repeats her ‘strong and stable’ message”.

Stairway to heaven
Tony Homewood, Tory agent in the target seat of Wakefield, boasted on local radio of his stint as an “executions consultant” in the US during the 1990s. He said: “I orchestrated the execution of people and I didn’t lose any sleep over it.” Another example of caring Conservatism?

Good times bad times
Former Welsh first minister Rhodri Morgan (see Obits page) had a unique turn of phrase, making him an entertaining presence on TV and radio. In 1998, he appeared on BBC’s Newsnight and when asked by Jeremy Paxman if he wanted to be first minister, Morgan replied: “Do one-legged ducks swim in a circle?” During an assembly debate on police reform, he commented: “The only thing which isn’t up for grabs is no change and I think it’s fair to say it’s all to play for, except for no change.” In 2003, Mr Morgan took Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan to task after he criticised the quality of assembly debates, saying: “It’s like a child shooting both its parents and then complaining about the food in the orphanage.” The Queen may not have been amused the following year, when he arrived late for her visit to Builth Wells in Powys. He defended himself saying: “I wasn’t late, the Queen was early.” On the Conservatives, he quipped: “The Tories’ relationship with Wales is based on trust and understanding. We don’t trust them and they don’t understand us.” In the late 1980s when Margaret Thatcher dragooned Richard Branson to pick up litter in a park for a photo-stunt, Morgan quipped that she was the new JFK: “Ich bin ein bin liner.” And on the difference between his administration and that of his predecessor Alun Michael, he said: “We had developed a reputation for political shenanigans and being incapable of running our own affairs, and that’s how it appeared to people. Drama is fine but if drama implies that the Welsh couldn’t run a whelk stall, then that’s a problem.” Morgan also once said an MP in New Labour stood for “Material for Promotion, Mandelson Poodle and Millbank Pagee.” He is much missed!

Your time is gonna come
Lord Buckethead is standing against Theresa May in Maidenhead. His main manifesto pledge is to bring back Ceefax. In an ideal world, he might stand a chance.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.