Andy McSmith's Diary: Dinner goes down better with a £35,000 Nick Clegg speech

Clegg can hold off shopping at Lidl for now - after bagging a job as a corporate speaker

Andy McSmith
Friday 24 July 2015 13:27

Nick Clegg’s salary was halved when he lost his position as Deputy Prime Minister, falling from £134,565 to £67,060, but he may yet save himself the embarrassment of having to shop at Lidl instead of Waitrose. He has been signed up as a corporate speaker by Leading Authorities, a Washington-based agency.

The accompanying blurb says that he “occupied the second-highest office in the country at a time when the United Kingdom was recovering from a deep recession,” adding: “Despite the hugely controversial decisions … Nick Clegg successfully maintained his party’s support for a full five-year term of office.” The agency tactfully omits any detail of what finally became of the Lib Dems under Clegg’s leadership.

If you want to hire him as your after-dinner speaker, he is yours for £35,000. Two engagements a year, and his income is back where it was.

Uncertainty over Badawi

Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South, has written to Tobias Ellwood, a Foreign Office minister, asking him to explain his mystifying claim in the Commons this week that the case of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is under review by the Saudi Supreme Court. Badawi’s family believed the court had ruled against him and that there is an imminent risk of his public flogging being resumed.

McDonald, who raised the Badawi case in Parliament, is asking that Ellwood either elaborate, or correct the record if he “mis-spoke”. The Foreign Office insists the minister did not mislead the Commons, but will not say any more. One day, hopefully, we will know what is happening to this brave man who faces being publicly tortured, possibly to death, for his opinions.

Spin doctor struck off

Billy Luffingham, who was the Green Party’s campaign director, has quietly quit. He made the announcement on Twitter several days ago.

Mysteriously, there was no reaction: no one wished him luck. That silence may arise from the fact that one of his roles was media training the party leader Natalie Bennett, whose most memorable media appearance was on LBC, when she suffered an excruciating “brain freeze”.

After that incident, Luffingham sent for outside help to prepare her for the second TV leaders’ debate. His choice was Stephen Pritchard, whose full-time job is director of drama at Colstons, a £13,000-a-year private school in Bristol. Luffingham is an old boy of the school. So is his national campaigns assistant, Zak Bond. It was said that Colstons is to the Greens what Eton is to the Tories.

The young and the restless

That very authoritative tome, The Times Guide to the House of Commons 2015, is out, and I read in it that Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, and husband of Harriet Harman, was born on 21 April 1964. Dromey became famous as the organiser of a strike at a London factory called Grunwick, in 1977. What a precocious 13-year-old he must have been! Other sources say he was born in 1948.

The grass is always greener...

There is an old argument about how the Hertfordshire town of Hemel Hempstead got its name. It is a very old name, predating the Norman conquest. One theory is that the “hemp” bit refers to the plant from which cannabis is derived. This is a source of great amusement for those campaigning for cannabis to be legalised, because the MP for Hemel Hempstead, Mike Penning, is also the Home Office minister in charge of drugs policy.

Parliament has broken up for the summer, and I am taking a break. This column will reappear in the autumn.

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