John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: January 26, 2018 Last modified: January 26, 2018

Run Runaway

Kezia Dugdale received a fee of £70,000 for her recent appearance on I’m a Celebrity. The former Scottish Labour leader also declared between £10,000 and £15,000 worth of travel, accommodation and living expenses, which were paid by ITV, according to her declarations in the Scottish Parliament’s register of interests. Ms Dugdale was formally reprimanded by Labour last month for her absence. The entry includes estimates of the travel and accommodation Ms Dugdale received, as well as a daily payment of 150 Australian dollars which she was given for living expenses while not in the camp. This brought the total sum published in the entry to between £80,000 and £85,000, including her £70,000 fee. A spokesman for Ms Dugdale said she had donated a total of £5,100 from her fee to the charities Who Cares? Scotland, Glasgow Women’s Aid, and the Archie Foundation. Prior to appearing on the show, she also donated £2,500 of her MSP salary to the Rock Trust, an Edinburgh-based charity which supports young people at risk of homelessness. The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Dugdale’s charity donations were a “drop in the ocean” compared to the fee she received, and described her appearance on the show as a “shameful episode.”

 

My Oh My

Nigel Farage has had his MEP’s salary docked by £35,500 after claims he misspent EU funds. The ex-UKIP leader was investigated by the European Parliament over claims his office assistant had not been working on EU matters. Half of his salary has been withheld to recoup the money the Parliament says it is owed. The move was condemned by a spokesman for the European Parliament group which Farage heads. “There is a vindictive campaign by the European Parliament of selective persecution of Eurosceptic MEPs, parties and groups,” said the spokesman for the European Freedom and Direct Democracy group. “This allegation is all part of their politically motivated assault.” European Parliament auditors last year suspended the contract of Christopher Adams, who was hired to be Farage’s assistant in Brussels and Strasbourg. Adams, a former UKIP Parliamentary candidate, was also the national nominating officer for UKIP. The monthly pre-tax salary for an MEP is 8,484 euros (£7,530), which is the equivalent of an annual gross salary, before tax, of 101,808 euros (£90,235). They also receive thousands more in expenses for staff and travel costs. Farage, who will lose his job as an MEP in 2019 after 20 years in the European Parliament, recently described himself as “skint.” The 53-year-old will be entitled to annual EU pension of £73,000 when he reaches the age of 63.

 

Get down and get with it

The Conservatives need to take the fight to Labour on social media, the party’s new chairman admitted. Brandon Lewis said the Tories intended to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram more to “talk” to voters. A “toolkit” of graphics and videos would be given to young supporters to help expand the party’s visibility online. He said that Labour’s ability to appeal to young voters online was a key part of its 2017 general election campaign. Lewis, who took over as party chairman in the recent government reshuffle, acknowledged the Conservatives needed to motivate supporters to promote them on social media. He said: “What I want to see out there is more and more of our activists and people who support some of the principles we’re outlining, whether it’s a particular policy or a whole package of government reforms, getting out there in the digital world saying so and spreading that message with us.”

 

All join hands

Lewis also warned that Conservative candidates will be suspended if they insult rivals. A new code of conduct would require people standing for Parliament to “behave responsibly and show respect” to others. He urged Labour to sign up to the same guidelines. Jeremy Corbyn, asked about previous remarks by his shadow chancellor John McDonnell, said: “I would rather stick to where I disagree with somebody on their policies.” In 2015 McDonnell described Conservative Esther McVey, now the new work and pensions secretary, as a “stain of inhumanity”, and he has also been criticised for quoting someone talking about “lynching” her during a meeting in 2014. This was used by Mr Lewis to claim there was a “rot” at the top of the Labour Party.

 

Bangin’ man

Michael Wolff’s best-selling expose of the Donal Trump White House has, quite rightly, generated transatlantic scorn over a lazy President with the mindset of a fractious two-year-old. But this self-proclaimed “very stable genius” remains a very dangerous clown. A few weeks either side of publication, the Trump “administration” persuaded Congress to pass legislation which slashes the tax bills of the super-rich and corporations, adds a trillion dollars to the national debt, opens up more of Alaska to oil drilling, shifts the US judiciary to the extreme Right, expands offshore drilling and deports hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have lived there for decades. Book critic Andrew Sullivan writes: “In other words, the Republican Party is finding a way to cordon off Trump as far as possible from actually running the country, but is using him as a base-pleaser and an antagonist to everyone they hate.”

 

Do we still do it?

Yasmin Alibhal-Brown tweeted: “How many Brexiteers went or are going skiing in Europe? How many own second homes there? What EU wines do they drink? We must be told.” That will go down well in Rotherham. Nothing more encapsulates the reasons why Britain voted, albeit narrowly, for Brexit.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.