Diary: Massive Whitehall salaries sound sweet to Sugar

 

When details emerged last summer about the pay packets of some public servants, one Tory MP, James Wharton, called it "absolutely shocking" that people were drawing that sort of money from the public purse in these recessionary days.

But Alan Sugar, a Labour peer, takes the opposite view. Such sums are not outlandish to a man who was already a multi-millionaire in the 1980s, and he thinks the Government should hire more people on salaries to match that of Tony Fountain, head of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, whose total whack, including bonuses and pension contributions, is more than £675,000.

He has urged the Government to pull together a team of hard-nosed, highly-paid business types whose job would be to supervise every government purchase, from paper clips to guided missiles, to make sure they are not being fleeced. The Government buys about £238bn worth of kit every year, and Lord Sugar, left, reasons that if they hired the right people for a combined annual remuneration of £50m, and set them a target of buying the same volume of goods for £200bn, the taxpayers would be quids in. "Would the Government have the guts to do this?" he asks.

"Or would they be frightened off by headlines about the head honcho of procurement earning X millions of pounds a year? One can see a certain national newspaper carrying the headline: 'Fred Smith earns X million a year, while Joe Bloggs in the north-east of England struggles'." Yes, one can.

Ken Russell knew how to expose MPs

So far as I know, Ken Russell, whose death was reported yesterday, was the only director ever to film a future MP in the nude. I refer, of course, to Glenda Jackson in her role as Antonina Miliukova, the frustrated would-be lover of the gay composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, in The Music Lovers.

The Tories' turn to leak

For years, the Tories would complain about Gordon Brown's practice of having the details of his budgets leaked in advance, item by item. Now both sides have switched roles. Labour has furiously complained about how the contents of the autumn statement that George Osborne will deliver today have dribbled out in advance. The Speaker, John Bercow, had already spotted what was going on and revealed yesterday that he has had words with Treasury ministers about it.

Bercow's heraldic acquisition

John Bercow yesterday acquired that rarest of status symbol – his personal coat of arms. The design includes a ladder, to symbolise his upward mobility, as a taxi driver's son, four roundels, because he's a tennis freak, scimitars, because he comes from Essex, and pink triangles, because a seminal moment in Bercow's political journey away from hard-line Conservatism was when he defied majority opinion in the Tory party by speaking up for gay rights. All that's missing is a flimsy sheet, to symbolise his love for Sally.

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