What is an ideal job? Answer: one you are axed from but get to keep a grossly inflated annual salary! Just ask Glenys Kinnock – sorry, Baroness Kinnock – wife of former Labour Party leader Neil (oh, all-right, Lord Kinnock), who is currently enjoying this experience.
In a Gordon Brown reshuffle this week, she was dumped after only four months as Europe minister, a top post carrying £106,136 per annum, and handed responsibility for Africa – a much less prestigious post – yet managed to retain her whopping salary.
One can only wonder what her replacement, junior minister Chris Bryant, thinks about having to ‘do the biz’ as a parliamentary under secretary of state on a mere £96,167! It is also believed to be the first time the Europe minister position has not been held by a minister of state.
Perhaps more interesting is that, much to the annoyance of Downing Street and the Foreign Office, the shy Mr Bryant – yes, he who made the headlines six years ago for posing in his underwear on a gay dating website – promptly announced his new post to the world on Twitter, before an official statement could be released! So, perhaps he’s happy with the financial situation – as Lady Kinnock must surely be.
But did a ‘reshuffle’ ever happen in the first place? No, not according to a Downing Street spokesman who said in an interview that the changes were merely ‘housekeeping’, and added that the Prime Minister had been very pleased with the performances of Lady Kinnock and Mr Bryant.
Wouldn’t it be great if politicians could be brought down to earth with a bump, especially where pay and expenses are concerned? They have benefited from delving into our pockets for far too long.
Here’s a comforting snippet of news. David Blunkett has announced that he will leave his brain to science.
And, no. It won’t end up pickled in a jar, labelled and displayed on a shelf for posterity! For the former Home Secretary has come to the rescue of scientists who are bemoaning a dearth of healthy grey matter they need for research into dementia.
Proving he still has his head screwed on the right way, the 62-year-old politician – who does not suffer from the condition and is vice-president of the Alzheimer’s Society – was quick to say in an interview: “I hope to be using my brain for a good while yet, but I’m pleased to know that it may help people in the future when I no longer have need of it.”
Well, David, I just can’t help wondering if the majority of our erstwhile MPs and leading lights have already had their grey matter removed – a theory supported by all the parliamentary shenanigans we are all forced to witness!
Oh yes. And I really must scotch any rumours now by adding that I have had absolutely no takers for my brain, whatsoever!
LIFTING THE SPIRIT
Religion may have taken on a whole new meaning for parishioners in, and around, the Somerset market town of Langport, whose vicar persuaded the church to buy a pub. Yes, buy a pub! Fantastic!
In a move that actually gives credence to the phrase “I’m just off to church,” used by many tipplers at about 12 noon on a Sunday, the Reverend Hugh Ellis pioneered the idea which now sees spiritual sustenance being served up in the Old Custom House, formerly – and appropriately named – The Angel.
“I think offering hospitality runs very much with Christian values,” says Mr Ellis. “If drinking is controlled, it isn’t the drink of the Devil,” he adds.
Mr Ellis describes running a pub as “simply reviving ancient traditions, where monasteries gave solace to travellers and pilgrims”
He adds: “There was concern in some quarters that we would be force-feeding customers religion when all they wanted was a pint, but that’s not what we are about.”
There is, however, one very large sobering thought. The whole project took off, thanks to a positive result from public consultation and the blessing of church officials – plus a hefty £200,000 grant, some of which will have to be repaid on a regular basis.
Well, I just pray that the Old Custom House will draw in enough custom to be a viable business – at a time when more and more pubs are calling time for good.
Yep. In the wake of Dita Von Teese’s provocative photo shoot – featuring black stockings, suspenders plus obligatory lacy bra – to launch her new Wonderbra range, stockings and suspenders are ‘back in fashion’, much to the delight of many men!
In fact, her effort – backed up with a bit of support from singer Katy Perry (now dating ‘naughty boy’, comedian Russell Brand), who is also an ambassador for the lingerie – has apparently pushed sales up by a third in recent weeks.
Lingerie buyer for Figleaves Denise Fraser said in an interview: “The Dita Von Teese effect has certainly taken hold. Women are desiring a more feminine, sexy look in the recession – they are buying something more sexy to improve their mood.”
In that case, Denise – and purely from a fashion point-of-view – long live the recession!
BROWN THE HATCH
I can already hear Geordies sobbing into their pints of Newcastle Brown Ale at the news that Scottish and Newcastle (S & N) is pulling the plug on its remaining Tyneside brewery.
Even more hard to swallow is the fact that they will in future be supping alien brown ale from Yorkshire, because the closure sees brewing move to John Smith’s in Tadcaster – consigning 63 employees at Gateshead’s Dunston Brewery to the dole queue.
Explaining the closure, S & N operations director Paul Hoffman is reported as saying: “Clearly this is a very sad day, but the proposal to close Dunston is not a decision we take lightly. Falling beer sales have created general over-capacity in the UK brewing sector and rising costs have put unprecedented pressure on our business.”
Or, reading between the lines: “Sorry, but goodbye.”
Jeff Tate, regional officer for the union Unite, didn’t mince his words: “To see a day when Newcastle Brown Ale is no longer brewed on Tyneside is a disgrace,” he said.
And Gateshead council’s chief executive, Roger Kelly, was very miffed. “We are extremely disappointed that nobody talked to us about this before the announcement,” he said.
But hey, ho, life must go on – and I expect Geordies everywhere will soon find themselves drowning their sorrows in bottles of ‘Tadcaster Brown’!
Have a good weekend.