The wine waiters at Claridges are taking a keen interest in the investigation into malpractice in Falkirk. And they’re hoping that Unite will be fully exonerated. Len McCluskey likes to celebrate political victories at the hotel bar with a glass of pink champagne. His most recent visit was in July 2011 after Rupert Murdoch’s ‘humblest day of my life’ admission before a Commons select committee. McCluskey toasted the press mogul’s self-lacerating words by downing a bottle of pink fizz with his old mucker Tom Watson. As they say, nothing’s too good for the workers to subsidise.
National treasure June Whitfield has a ruthless streak. She wants her rivals to drop like flies. ‘I live in delight,’ said the 87-year-old when asked about her employment prospects, ‘as there are so many in the business dying, which means more for me.’
The European Commission is to become a press baron. The poor old Brussels gravy-trainers are so fed up with ‘shallow and inadequate reporting’ by conventional media that they’ve decided to spend £2.75 million a year on their own media agency. The Euro-wonk behind this costly wheeze is a Brit, Gregory Paulger, who claims that all journalists hired by the EU to report on the EU will enjoy ‘complete and total editorial freedom’.
More hot air at the Olympic park. The first anniversary of London 2012 is to be commemorated with a festival of conceptual art chosen for its modernity and sophistication. The show’s highlight is a bouncy castle replica of Stonehenge by Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller. Nothing says ‘sophisticated modernity’ like a rubber version of an Iron Age temple.
Boris is in the soup again. At the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum he was alongside the Malaysian premier, Najib Razak, who boasted that 68 per cent of his country’s students are women. ‘They’ve still got to find husbands,’ blurted Boris rather unwisely. Instant outrage erupted. ‘Pathetically archaic, unacceptably sexist and hopelessly out of touch,’ declared the Everyday Sexism group. Boris is no stranger to such controversies. When he was at Oxford his Marxist-leaning college, Balliol, used to hold monthly feminist gatherings under the title Women’s Lunch. Left-wing sisters like Stephanie Flanders and Yvette Cooper would discuss world peace and nuclear disarmament over lentils and organic gruel. Boris has always denied rumours that he once tried to crash the banquet crying, ‘I want to be on the menu.’
The cost of HS2 has rocketed again. Last week another ten billion smackers was lumped onto the budget to pay for a set of tunnels which, by coincidence, are concentrated in Ukip/Conservative marginal constituencies. Handy for defeated Tories to escape through in 2015. It might be cheaper to move Birmingham 20 miles closer to London.
Guess who’s praying for a Lib-Lab coalition after 2015? Estate agents. A mansion tax would create vast profits for valuers everywhere. A friend who runs a smart agency in the West Country reckons that about 70,000 properties will have to be inspected and priced. ‘We can charge a grand for an hour’s work,’ he says. ‘And maybe a third of the freeholders will appeal. So that means another grand for us to photocopy the original estimate and post it to the tribunal.’ He believes the tax could bring as much as £95 million into his industry. ‘But what about raising cash for the government?’ I ask him. He looks affronted. ‘What about the government raising cash for us?’
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