Andy McSmith's Diary: Blair milks Milken for $1m charity donation


It has been a long time since Michael Milken’s name was news in this country. He was the 1980s Junk Bond King, who piled up untold wealth in the boom years, but came to grief at the end of the decade when he copped a ten-year jail sentence, a $200m fine and a permanent ban on dealing in securities, after  pleading guilty to six felonies, in what was then the biggest fraud case in the history of the US securities industry.

The sentence was later reduced to two years. Since his release, he has reinvented himself as a philanthropist, contributing huge sums to medical research. The Wall Street Journal reports that the star guest at the annua l Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills this week was Tony Blair.

The former Prime Minister was asked about a number of topics, including his time as a wannabe rock star, at Oxford University, when he was lead singer for a band called Ugly Rumours.

He told Michael Milken: “I think one of the great experiences you should go through in life is to be in a rock band. That is for many reasons – some of which I’ll go into and some of which I won’t.” He added: “If you want to be good at anything, whether as a rock musician or a politician, you’ve got to have talent.”

His answers must have gone down well, because when the session ended, Mr Milken informed his “visibly shocked” guest that he was donating $1m to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Clegg’s moral calculator isn’t adding up

In the aftermath of the catastrophic collapse of a garment factory building in Savar, Bangladesh, where the death toll has now passed 400, there are two answers that Nick Clegg might have given when asked on his LBC phone-in whether his family shops at Primark or Matalan, from whom the factory took orders.

He could have said “no” on grounds of conscience, or “no” on grounds of taste, because a millionaire can afford to go higher up the market.  Surprisingly, he said: “I’m not pretending our shopping choices are done on some sort of moral calculator, far from it. You go to the most convenient shop, you buy what’s affordable, you try and get what you can in an affordable way for your kids.”

Are there any other activities to which the Deputy Prime Minister doesn’t apply a moral calculator, I wonder?

Forget Ukip v the Tories, it’s mum v daughter

Today’s election in Wiltshire offers an interesting mother and daughter clash. Pat Bryant, a local Ukip stalwart, left, is contesting one ward while her daughter, Liz, is running in another – as a Conservative.

Her mother does not think this family difference will last. She told Marlborough News Online: “Liz will grow up and join Ukip long before David Cameron ever becomes a Conservative.”

Glenda Jackson’s son can’t face the naked truth

With the United Kingdom Independence Party on a roll, there is growing alarm about a promise made on the social media last December by the Daily Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges, right, the “Blairite” son of the irrepressible Glenda Jackson.

He vowed: “If Ukip break 6% at the next election I’ll streak naked down Whitehall in a Nigel Farage mask while singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’...” 

Strictly speaking, the “next election” is today’s, in which it is highly likely that Ukip will top six per cent. The next national election will be for the European Parliament next year, when Ukip can be expected to do even better.

Mr Hodges is trying to extricate himself by saying that he meant the next general election. But it is  all very academic, because we know what these bloggers are like.

In 2010, the Tory blogger Iain Dale faithfully promised to run naked down Whitehall if the Lib Dems won “only” 59 Commons seats. They actually won only 57. Did he run naked down Whitehall? Of course not. There is no danger of Hodges keeping his word either.

I even wonder if he can sing.

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