Matthew Norman on Monday: Champion of underdog battles for MPs’ rights to 38 per cent pay hike

Transport minister confirms his neo-Thatcherite instinct for honing in on the electorate’s paramount concerns


Less than a week after Margaret Thatcher’s interment, is the Tory search for a spiritual heir to her brand of conviction politics over already?

While Stephen Hammond’s front-bench career is in its infancy, it is our duty to scan the horizon for the next epochal talent. There we find a Transport minister confirming his neo-Thatcherite instinct for honing in on the electorate’s paramount concerns by proposing, to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, that MPs’ annual pay be raised from £65,000 to £105,000 (a trifling hike of 38 per cent).

Research into this embryonic titan unearths a history of battling for the underdog. The MP for Wimbledon came to Westminster via stints as a fund manager and investment banker.

Despite the risible parliamentary income, Stephen has managed to acquire a holiday home. The location is no more our bees wax than the fact it is technically owned by a company, Peal Gas Ltd, registered in Delaware, a state respected for its exceedingly low personal and corporate taxes. As a paradigm to his fellow Hon Mems of what can be achieved on slave wages, it speaks of Stephen’s altruism that he strives to help those less skilled in scrimping than himself, and we anticipate his elevation to the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity.

Mrs T: the accidental multiculturalist

Charles Moore’s long awaited Thatcher biography, as serialised in the Telegraph, is a cracking read. Among much fascinating detail, two things stand out. One is her oddly humanising request to sister Muriel, when an Oxford student, for advice about how to reduce and raise her bust.

The other is the revelation that above the marital dining room table she and Denis hung an inscription given to her by the Syrian ambassador, which the noted Arabist Jonathan Aitken, pictured – Carol’s gentleman caller at the time – translated as “There is one God, and Mohamed is his prophet”.

If that seems a startling display of multicultural sensitivity, the Thatchers apparently had no idea of the meaning. When it came to the Middle East, so Mr Aitken observed, Mrs T was so ignorant that she believed Sinai to be the plural of sinus.

Boris’s faith in the electorate borne out

In a rare sortie into the land of opportunism, Boris Johnson responds to her passing by chivvying the Government to show “Thatcherite zeal” towards the trade unions.

Boris demands a change in the law so that a majority of those entitled to vote, rather than of those who respond to ballots, is needed for a strike. His belief in the absolute majority brooks no dissent. We salute Boris, re-elected as Mayor of London on rather less than 20 per cent of the eligible vote, for another brainwave.

Kane and Abel of the Rich List

This year’s instalment of the Sunday Times Rich List throws up a curiosity. A month after they had a potty-mouthed shouting match, Richard Desmond and Alan Sugar find themselves paired at an equal No 98. With Richard’s wealth down by £140m and Alan’s soaring by £60m, the Sunshine Boys of commerce are now locked in a deathly embrace on £860m. You couldn’t make it up. You could use it as the premise for a novel, however, and no doubt Jeffrey Archer will.

Ladies of influence

A second unlikely union of warring parties – at least according to those who misunderstood the Booker winner’s recent speech about the Duchess – involves Hilary Mantel and Kate Middleton. They both feature in Time’s list of the world’s most influential 100 people. In further evidence the special relationship is stronger than ever, there is no place for David Cameron.

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