Early in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, he was much helped by an interest-free loan of £50,000 from Britain’s biggest union, Unite. The union’s generosity grew as Mr Corbyn’s chances of winning improved, with one fat cheque after another arriving from the Unite headquarters.
The latest version of the Register of Members’ Interest reveals that on the day Mr Corbyn was declared the winner, Unite said he could keep the money. That brought Unite’s total contribution to the Corbyn campaign to more than £163,000. Five other unions pitched in, but their combined contribution was £63,000, £100,000 less than Unite’s.
No wonder Mr Corbyn thought twice about committing the Labour Party to abolishing Trident after Unite’s boss Len McCluskey said it would endanger thousands of his members’ jobs.
Expensive taste dies hard
One figure leaps off the page from the list of expenses paid to members of the House of Lords during the month of May, which has just been published, because it has a minus sign in front of it.
This is the entry for Lord Hanningfield, who was ordered by the Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee to repay £3,300 he had claimed for turning up on 11 separate days but doing no work.
He was barred from making any more claims until after the general election, but wasted no time restarting in May. He can claim £300 a day, but he will not receive anything until his debt is paid off – hence a curious entry that the allowance owed to him for that month amounted to minus £2,700.
Another person who had not been seen for a while but who nevertheless claimed attendance for one day in May was Harold Wilson’s former adviser, Baroness Falkender.
She was ennobled by Wilson in 1974, and delivered her maiden speech … well, actually she has not delivered it yet. Forty-one years and never a word.
All talk and no nudity
Congratulations to Stephen Tall, the Lib Dem who vouchsafed before the last election that he would run naked down Whitehall if his party lost more than half its seats.
He performed that run with just enough of his body covered to avoid arrest, filmed by a crew from the BBC’s Daily Politics show. In doing so he compelled Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, to fulfil a promise to give £5,000 to the charity of Mr Tall’s choice – Médecins Sans Frontières.
This trend for promising to run naked down Whitehall was begun by broadcaster Iain Dale, who promised he would do so if the Lib Dems won fewer seats in 2010 than they had in 2005. They did. He didn’t.
It was followed up by journalist Dan Hodges, who promised to perform the same run “in a Nigel Farage mask whilst singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’” if Ukip managed to score more than 6 per cent in the 2015 election. It did. He hasn’t. Shame on them both.
Mr Gove and his dog
Readers of the Sarah Vine column in the Daily Mail will know that her household includes a little Lhasa Apso and sausage dog cross called Muffin. I can further reveal that on 14 October Muffin was brought into the Daily Mail building by Vine’s husband Michael Gove, who was paying a visit after being attacked in the paper for withdrawing the Government’s prisons bid for a Saudi contract.
Moreover, Muffin sat in on the morning’s editorial conference, in the presence of the Mail’s legendary editor Paul Dacre. And, fortunately for Mr Gove’s political future, the dog did not harm Dacre’s expensive office carpet.
Eighteen months ago, I noted in this Diary that the Metropolitan Police football team had played 27 games so far that season, winning nine, losing nine, and drawing nine, giving them a tally sheet of 9-9-9. I now notice that they drew 1-1 in their match against Dulwich Hamlet, the scorers being Dan Sweeney and Billy Crook.
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