Andy McSmith's Diary: Gordon Brown's earning power is good news for good causes


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Indy Politics

In just two months, Gordon Brown has earned for his charities almost 50 per cent more than David Cameron is paid in an entire year as Prime Minister, thanks to lecture fees. A single speech delivered in Dubai earned Mr Brown a fee almost equal to his annual salary as an MP. His payments for just four speeches delivered in various parts of the world so far this year come to more than £210,000 – not counting payments in kind, in the form of free travel or hotel rooms for example. David Cameron’s annual salary is £145,000.

Though the fees Mr Brown commands are no match for Tony Blair’s vast earnings, they would be enough to make him a multimillionaire – except that he decided from the moment he stepped down not to pocket any of his outside earnings, but to live off his MP’s salary alone.

A note on the MPs’ Register of Member’s Interests emphasises that all of it “is being held by the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown for the employment of staff to support my ongoing involvement in public life”. His office, which costs about £550,00 a year to run, supports a range of children’s charities.

Even so, his declared earnings are a striking illustration of how much more the big-name politicians can earn outside politics. Gordon Brown’s latest additions to the register, published yesterday, reveal that he was paid £62,622.17 for a single speech delivered to a government summit in Dubai in February.

The organisers also paid more than £26,000 in hotel and transport costs for the former Prime Minister and accompanying aides.

Earlier in the same month, he was paid £49,915 for a speech to an export conference in Houston, Texas. Late in January, a speech to the Callan Investments Institute, in San Francisco, earned him £49,455.10. He was also paid £48,898.25 for “presentations” to Trinity University in San Antonio. In each case his hosts also paid for flights and accommodation.

That is in just two months. Multiply by six, and the inference is that the former Prime Minister, right, is on course to generate around £1.2m for good works this year alone.

Major’s minor role

The other new biography of Margaret Thatcher – the one by her former adviser, Robin Harris, not the elegant tome by the former Daily Telegraph editor, Charles Moore – glows with admiration for her, but is less adoring of her successor.

“Nothing became John Major so well as the cheerful manner, indeed the patent relief, of his resignation,” Harris writes. “He was never up to the job – and by the end, somewhere inside himself he recognised the fact.” Cruel.

Tatler takes a punt  on a princess

While the nation waits in eager suspense to know whether the first-born child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is a girl or a boy, Tatler magazine has taken a punt on her being a Princess, with this striking cover, to their “Royal Baby Collector’s Edition” due out in June.

The child sitting with such an admirably straight back is Georgia-Mae Tanner, and the baby corgi’s name is Milly.

Pooter the council leader gains a reprieve

In the UK’s wealthiest borough, the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, there is a blogger known only as The Dame who is remarkably well informed and frank about the important and self-important people who run the council – particularly its long-serving leader, Sir Merrick Cockell, whom the Dame delights in calling “Pooter”.

Her latest blog entry begins in style: “One of Pooter’s expensive pretensions was the appointment of a Head of Office at somewhere in the region of £55k a year…”

Until recently, you could pick up some of the Dame’s musings by accessing Sir Merrick’s Wikipedia entry, which also featured an exhaustive list of his expenses, until one afternoon about two weeks ago, when every reference to his expenses and his nickname was removed by one of Wikipedia’s editors.

Sir Merrick is standing down from the council leadership in May. Someone must have thought it was time to stop being beastly to poor old Pooter.