8 September 2019
Our paper was left open one day this week on a page with the headline ‘Federer’s skill may be immune to time but his body is not’. Funnily enough, I’ve been feeling a bit like that myself recently.
On 3 September 1939, Britain and France war declared on Germany. 80 years later to the day, Britain’s prime minister declared war on his own party and parliamentary democracy. Boris Johnson’s first, extraordinarily juvenile performance in the House of Commons, his body language revealing his petulance, was spent talking mainly to the people behind him rather than to the opposition and helped him towards his 100% success rate at failing to get his first three motions through parliament.
He lost his majority when a member of his own party crossed the floor in the middle of his ravings and compounded this with a pogrom of softies, withdrawing the whip from a lot of moderate Tories – people like Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, whom I’ve always rather respected.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday he was specifically asked to apologise for racist remarks he’d made in the past but wasn’t even big enough to say “I deeply regret any offence that may have been inadvertently caused by remarks I made in the past”; instead, he just ignored the question and bumbled on about another unrelated question that had been asked at the same time.
Then, his sister Rachel having bailed out some time ago, his brother Jo left him, saying he preferred to put country before family. I wonder if anybody thinks, as some people did when Labour elected a new leader a few years ago, that the Conservatives chose the wrong sibling?
Johnson then did some incomprehensible burbling in front of a platoon of police. Next time, he’ll be surrounded by heavily-armed commandos who will then take over the media to explain that nothing has changed.
Finally, the prime minister said he’d “rather die in a ditch” than delay leaving the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal, and would be willing to break the law to do so. Benito, mio amico, a lot of people would be willing to help you find a ditch.
As Bob Dylan once said “There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke”.
With its customary impartiality, the Daily Mail published an article last month criticising high pay for senior members of staff at some of the country’s best-known charities. For example, they reported that Macmillan Cancer Support’s chief executive earned between £180,000 and £190,000 last year and wildlife charity WWF UK paid an employee £180,000 to £190,000 in the year to June 2018.
According to the latest survey from Charity Finance, the median salary of the chief executives at the largest 100 charities in the UK is £155,000 but even this figure is misleading because only 7 charity CEOs were paid more than £300,000 and the five best-paid CEOs all head medical charities (Nuffield Health, the Wellcome Trust, Marie Stopes International, the London Clinic and the Francis Crick Institute).
Strangely, the article failed to mention Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development data showing that the median salary paid to the CEOs of FTSE 100 companies was £3.46 million in 2018 or the fact that, according to the European Banking Authority, 3,500 bankers in the UK were paid more than £900,000 in 2017; or that just 6% of the chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are women while more than 30% of the chief executives of the top 100 charities are women.
I’d love to see all organisations, charitable and commercial, required to limit the maximum remuneration of all staff and directors to a fixed multiple of the average remuneration of all staff, and publish the actual multiple in their accounts. Seven sounds to me like a good multiple.
When I was a director of a small division of a large public group, I suggested we should put everybody’s salaries, including ours, on the noticeboard. You will, I’m sure, be amazed to know that the reaction of the other board members was one of absolute horror. I argued that, if we couldn’t justify the differences between different salaries, there was something wrong with our pay scales. I lost.
While I’m talking about daft ideas, the animal rights charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stuck posters claiming “Wool is just as cruel as fur etc,” on the side of buses in February. Don’t they know that sheep need to moult and that shearing them is a kindness; and that they’re pretty insensitive anyway? The last time I picked up a sheep by two handfuls of the wool on its back to lift it over a gate, the sheep didn’t suffer at all (though I slipped on a wet flagstone and did something nasty to my shoulder).
Anyway, the Advertising Standards Authority were better informed than PETA and banned the poster.
As the most recent memento mori touched our lives recently I decided that if we love or like someone, we should tell them today because we could die tomorrow; and, if we hate or despise someone, we shouldn’t tell them today, because we might not die tomorrow.