MPs’ Expenses

Making you pay for their porn won’t stimulate the economy

In one sense, it is rank hypocrisy that any journalist should bash poor Jacqui Smith for inadvertently claiming her husband’s porn films on expenses. As anyone with any experience of Her Majesty’s Press can testify, the expenses claim is the genre where the reporter is expected to exercise whatever creative gifts he or she may possess. It seems to be a kind of sacred tradition of Fleet Street.

Shortly after arriving in the newsroom of the Times, more than two decades ago, an old and wily reporter invited me and another trainee out to lunch in order, as he put it, to “show us the ropes”. We had a doleful Japanese meal, in almost total silence, and all paid our way. I was wondering what kind of tutorial this was, when the reporter picked up the bill with a flourish. “See this?” he said. “This is a good bill,” he said, and trousered it.

“But who are these people?” I used to ask one distinguished leader-writer, when I read his restaurant claims, consisting of a series of chunky bills for “lunch with contact” or “dinner with contact”. Was there any way they could perhaps be identified, for the sake of verisimilitude? “I am afraid not,” he would sigh. “Security reasons.” Or there was the TV reporter I used to know in Brussels, who contrived to claim for a lawnmower in spite of living in a fourth-floor flat with no garden.

It is a fact of British journalism – the Telegraph excluded – that when you read an account of something of which you happen to have independent knowledge, you will often see how the facts have been slightly sandpapered to improve the story, or how the quotes have been artistically pruned of their vital saving clauses, and it is no surprise that this poetic licence finds its way into the composition of expenses. How many hacks have sat up late at night watching the porn film in the hotel bedroom? How many have then allowed it to appear as “media” or “extras” on their bill, and claimed back the cost? Hmm?

Continue reading MPs’ Expenses

Stanley Johnson Book Launch

Stanley I Presume

stanley-johnson3Boris was present at the book launch to mark the publication of his father’s autobiography (up to 40 years old) at Waterstones in Notting Hill Gate last night.  His glamorous sister, Rachel Johnson, interviewed Stanley and we were regaled with side-splittingly funny stories about the Johnson clan.  You have to read this awesome book to hear details about his population control initiative and ‘Pills Grim Progress’, his poetic prowess, solace he found in pollution control, the briefcase he lost off a landrover in a desert containing family passports and flight tickets, that was later found and handed to him with the words:  “Stanley, I presume?”, and many perfectly true and amazing stories from deep and darkest Devon.

This autobiography goes back to Boris’s grandfather, greatgrandfather and King George II.

Stanley *you rock* and now all we need is to read your sequel for 40 years + …

Available from all good bookshops and ISBN:  987-0-00-729672-9

G20 World Trade Talks

What do we want? The completion of the Doha Round of world trade talks! When do we want it? Now!

So here we go again, folks. It is now 10 years since the anti-capitalists attacked the City of London, and next week they intend to outdo themselves. In student bedsits and in terrace Kensington houses, the alienated children of the middle classes are planning to subvert the G20 summit. Across the desolate wastes of the Leftie internet, their wrathful campfires are already burning, and when April dawns they will surge like the orcs of Mordor in the general direction of the Bank of England. Continue reading G20 World Trade Talks

Boris in Any Questions, Radio 4, 20 March

Boris is taking part tonight in the Any Questions topical radio debate chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby at Kings College, London.   Regular listeners know this is usually a lively show and the line-up tonight includes not only Mayor of London Boris Johnson, but Minister of State for Employment and Minister for London Tony McNulty (educated in UK and US, former lecturer in organisational behaviour) , director of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and historian Professor Lisa Jardine and the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.  It is on Radio 4 at 8pm  (FM only) and can be heard again tomorrow lunchtime on all Radio 4 channels at 1.10 pm.

POETRY: should be conserved and promoted

I am a kind of slightly wonky poetry jukebox

As anyone who loves poetry will testify, when you learn a good poem, you make a good friend.

I propose universal saying lessons in English poetry … this should involve learning two or three poems a term, off by heart


It is sometimes said of the modern Tory party that it has become a little bit vanilla. A vital and superhuman effort has been made over the past five years to persuade the press and the public that we have changed, that we have made various accommodations with reality, that we finally get the point that Britain in 2009 is not the same as Britain in 1959. Continue reading POETRY: should be conserved and promoted

Electric cars are fast, fun and environmentally-friendly

It must have been round about 7.30pm and the traffic on the M40 was not getting any better. Ahead of us stretched the lava flow of red tail lights, and in front of us was a fellow doing a quite unconscionable speed in a BMW 4×4. When I say it was unconscionable, I mean it was unconscionably slow. Come on, Grandma, I yelled at his rump. Some of us have places to go, people to see, columns to write. Continue reading Electric cars are fast, fun and environmentally-friendly

Sir Fred Goodwin and Harriet Harman – pensions and bonuses row

harman1I never thought that anyone would make me feel the tiniest batsqueak of sympathy for Sir Fred Goodwin. This is the fellow who brought a great bank to its knees. This is the man whose exuberant and uninhibited incompetence has contrived to land the Royal Bank of Scotland with the largest corporate losses ever – a bleed so colossal that the bank is being kept alive only with seemingly constant transfusions of taxpayers’ haemoglobin. Continue reading Sir Fred Goodwin and Harriet Harman – pensions and bonuses row

Roman Quiz Results

Congratulations to the winners!


First Prize: Peter Lythe.

Second Prize: Emma Clarke.

As several entrants all achieved full marks, the winners were chosen according to whoever had submitted the fullest entries.

A special mention to the following for their outstandingly high standard answers:   Glenda Profit and B. Stafford (full marks), Salvador Gossens, Stas Stankovic and Mandy Allen (only one answer not fully correct).




Continue reading Roman Quiz Results