Ex-ministers find a profitable portfolio in media spotlight

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Indy Politics

Once they were Westminster's A-list and enjoyed the trappings of high political office. But the latest House of Commons Register of Members' Interests reveals that figures such as Michael Portillo, Peter Mandelson and Ann Widdecombe have swapped their places at the dispatch box for lucrative media and business interests.

Mr Portillo, who lost in the penultimate round of the Conservative leadership election last year, has a voluminous entry, one of the longest of all MPs, showing that he made after-dinner speeches through three professional booking agencies worth more than £30,000 in the past 12 months.

The former shadow chancellor is a favourite turn with City banks, including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Fleming, and industry bodies. Only a day after Iain Duncan Smith was announced as the Tories' new leader in September, Mr Portillo was guest speaker at the Timber Trader of the Year award. But the reputation of the Tory party's former golden boy as an engaging speaker has also taken him to more exotic climes, where fees for his anecdotal badinage begin at £500. He has been to Morocco, Mexico, Berlin, Zagreb, Barcelona and Dublin on speaking tours. He travelled to Germany, to present a television programme for the BBC on Richard Wagner, and to India over the new year, where he was treated to a car and chauffeur by Vipan Khanna of Dynamic Sales Service International (P) Ltd of New Delhi.

Miss Widdecombe, the former shadow home secretary, has been forging a career as a writer and television celebrity, with appearances on cookery and crime programmes, as well as the speaking circuit.

In addition to a £100,000 contract with Weidenfeld & Nicolson to publish her second novel, Miss Widdecombe has made £3,000 for an appearance on the law and order programmeCrime Team, £750 for a guest slot on the BBC's Ready Steady Cook, and £600 for an article in Good Housekeeping magazine. She was paid £3,000 for a "fly on the wall" documentary about her life made by Louis Theroux, and £500 for a television feature for Meridian entitled Let's Meet Ann Widdecombe.She donated many of her fees to a charity in Zambia.

She said yesterday that she never let outside engagements take precedence over her work as an MP. "I turn a lot of things down. I turned down Ruby Wax and Frank Skinner and Have I Got News For You," she said.

Peter Mandelson's entry shows that since leaving the Cabinet he has earned £10,000 to £15,000 for a monthly column in GQ magazine and provides speeches, lectures and articles for organisations including UBS Warburg, Weber Shandwick Worldwide and the Retail 100 Club. He also sits on the international advisory board of Independent News and Media, owner of The Independent.

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