John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: March 12, 2018 Last modified: March 12, 2018

The author of a controversial book about the Trump administration called Tony Blair an “complete liar” for denying he was trying to get a job with the White House. In his book Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff claims he overheard a conversation between the former PM and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner where he was “angling” for a post-election Middle East adviser role. Blair denied the claims, calling them “absurd” and “simply untrue”. But on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Wolff defended his allegation, saying the conversation had taken place 15 feet away from him.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has taken 34 trips on specially charted RAF aircraft over the last year, at a cost to the taxpayer of £180,000. Nine were to Brussels or Paris. Has he never heard of Eurostar?

Thirty-one executives who received a remuneration package of at least £1 million feature in the latest Labour Research Department (LRD) review of fat cat pay. They received a total of £84.35 million and the average package works out at £52,307 a week – and is 95 times the average UK weekly wage. Kate Swann, chief executive of airport and railway station catering group SSP, heads the list with a package worth £6.48 million a year or £124,580 a week. Antonio Horta-Osório, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, takes second spot with a £6.42 million package — equivalent to £123,500 a week. Another banker from another group — Stuart Gulliver of HSBC — fills third spot. His £6.09 million package equates to around £117,030 a week. Year-on-year comparisons could be made for 26 of the executives and 20 saw their packages grow last year. Thirteen of the increases were at least 10.9% at a time when official average earnings data were rising by no more than 2.8%. Kate Swann again takes the top spot with a 148.4% rise, while SSP’s chief financial officer Jonathan Davies received a 139.8% rise taking him to £2.21 million a year or £42,480 a week. A third executive to see their package more than double in size is Richard Woodman, chief financial officer of Paragon Banking. A 100.7% pushed his package up to £2.41 million a year or £46,350 a week. Angus McCoss, director of exploration at oil group Tullow, saw his package shrink by 17.6% last year but he still received £1.33 million or £25,500 a week. The LRD Fact Service examined the remuneration reports of the top 350 FTSE companies, quoted on the London Stock Exchange.

High fees don’t protect pupils from racism. Philip Pedley, 60, taught at the private Oundle School, in Oundle, Northamptonshire for more than 26 years. A misconduct panel found he told a pupil “your father must have come over, stealing our jobs”. He was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and of conduct that may bring teaching into disrepute and banned from the profession. The panel heard evidence that he used derogatory terms whilst telling another teacher that he did not want to teach black and south east Asian children. The panel found Pedley used “racist language, language associated with negative racial and/or cultural stereotypes and derogatory and disparaging remarks about pupils.”

The chief executive of the lecturers’ pension scheme at the centre of the recent university strike received a 17% pay rise worth an extra £82,000 this year. Bill Galvin’s pay package had risen from £484,000 to £566,000, according to a spokeswoman for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). Running costs for the university pension scheme were £125m per year – including two staff earning over £1m. A recent valuation found the scheme had a £6 billion deficit but striking lecturers dispute the figure and say proposals to tackle the shortfall will cut their retirement income by £10,000 per year. Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, said: “Whatever happens with this dispute, it is time for a proper look at what is happening with USS. Staff forced out on strike will no doubt look at the salaries enjoyed by some of those in charge of the scheme and wonder what exactly they are doing to justify the salary and safeguard the pensions.”

William Hill has been pushed into an annual loss after slashing the value of its Australian business. The bookmaker reported a pre-tax loss of £74.6m for 2017, compared with a profit of £181.3m the year before. That change was mainly due to a £238m charge the company took to write down the value of its business in Australia following changes in regulation – with credit-funded betting now banned in Australia – and a rise in taxation in some states.

Reality TV star Kylie Jenner wiped $1.3bn (£1bn) off Snap’s stock market value after tweeting that she no longer used its Snapchat messaging app. Kim Kardashian’s half-sister posted: “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.” Snap’s shares sank after Ms Jenner’s tweet about Snapchat’s re-design to her 24.5 million Twitter followers. After dropping almost 8%, shares in Snap closed 6% down on Wall Street, and returned to near the price at which the shares were listed when the company floated on the stock market in March last year.

Despite Donald Trump’s see-sawing on the issue, several US companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) amid calls for a boycott of businesses linked to the powerful gun lobby in the wake of the Florida school shooting which claimed 17 innocent lives. The firms include car rental giants Hertz and Enterprise, which had offered discounts for NRA members. Activists have flooded the NRA’s corporate partners with comments on social media under the hashtag #BoycottNRA. Firms under pressure include delivery company FedEx and tech giants such as Amazon, which distributes NRA television programmes. The family-owned First National Bank of Omaha said it would not renew NRA-branded credit cards, citing “customer feedback”.

At least two Tory functions organised by Stephen Canning to boost the Tories’ appeal to the youth vote have ended in punch-ups, including an alleged glassing in a Whitehall pub. There is no suggestion he was personally involved, but the Essex councillor is no stranger to controversy. In November 2015 he was suspended as Conservative Future’s deputy chairman along with other leading figures. He insisted that he knew nothing about allegations of blackmail, drug-taking and sexual harassment against former youth wing chairman Mark Clarke until they surfaced in the media. Mr Clarke was in charge of campaign group RoadTrip 2015, which brought in young activists- including Canning- to help candidates in that year’s general election.

Is there any end to Tory evil? Labour MP Roger Godsiff tabled a Commons early day motion calling on a ban on those who breed “peasants” to be shot for sport. There was a time, maybe, but not even Boris would suggest that now. Jacob Rees-Mogg, on the other hand…

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.