Monday, 30 August 2010


There was an interesting discussion yesterday on Paddy O’Connell’s “Broadcasting House” show on Radio 4.

It was during the newspaper review and was sparked, I think, by someone mentioning Tony Blair’s obscene earnings subsequent to his getting permission to stand down as prime minister from his boss in the White House.

Paddy’s guests were Salina Scott (that woman is obsessed with Yorkshire and managed to mention it in every comment she made), Miriam Margolyes (who reminded us several times that she is an intellectual snob... although I was left wondering what she gets to be snobby about, given that not one of her contributions displayed an iota of intellectual effort), and SIR Ming the Merciless.

It was Ming who was particularly incensed by Blair’s amassing of so much money. (Ming has to be content with interior decorators at our expense). This was where he seemed to depart from any kind of common sense and showed how the so-called “political classes” live in Lulu land.

He felt that, in fairness to Blair, it was because we left our prime ministers in such an impoverished state when they left office, that they were obliged to look elsewhere for ways of making money. He thought it was not supportable that someone who had held the highest office in the land should be left so poorly off that they should be obliged to tour and publish books.... and make vast amounts of money.

I felt that was rather odd. Mrs Thatcher made a vast amount by touring America giving speeches on the Downing Street Years and anything else that would pay her a handsome sum. Surely with SIR Dennis’s fortune (not to mention an hereditary title for erm....whatever), they were hardly short of a bob or two. I’m sure that Major had no money, but there is a prime ministerial pension of £64,000 a year paid immediately upon retirement from the post, there is also a car for life, together with a driver and round the clock special branch protection, so he’ll never have to stand in a queue at Tesco like the rest of us. Additionally there is around £80,000 a year funding to run an office.

Mr Blair is a QC, as is his wife. Each is capable of earnings of £500,000 a year doing his/her job in court. Add it together, put the prime ministerial pension in on top and they should just manage to get by.

Ming bemoaned the fact that when Harold Wilson started to feel the effects of Dementia he had to get his friends to rally round to help pay for his care... although, you would have thought that after all that Labour government on the 60s and 70s the National Health Service would have been providing that care. I mean Harold ran in rarified circles. His friends would have had some money to contribute...what about poor old Mr McTavish who worked in the jute mill? Would his mates be able to fork out to pay for his care? No. Well, in what way exactly was Mr Wilson different from Mr McTavish?

Ming’s solution, rather a dim one in my opinion for such an experienced politician, is that the prime ministerial pension be vastly increased so that there would be no need for the selling of oneself after stepping down (or being fired).

My solution is that they learn to get by on their incredibly generous pensions.

What do you guys think?


  1. So Selina Scott talks incessantly about Yorkshire?

    Did anyone ask her why she now lives in the Mallorcan hills?

  2. Nope Bugger. She kept telling us about Yorkshire and her farm there.

    Probably she has both.

  3. What to do? Depends on the ex-PM

    Supermac was, like Major, very dignified in retirement.

    Blair however ... erm ... well, he's been doing the rounds on the property market rather!

  4. I read an interview with her last Spring in the Mallorcan english language newspaper where she stated that she was a Mallorcan resident and only returned to the UK for occasional professional reasons; like appearing on BBC programmes to tell everyone she love Yorkshire.

    She really loved Mallorca too!

  5. Ex PMs should be castrated and burned publicly at the stake, this drastic seeming measure would ensure only people dedicated to actually serving their country and not themselves put themselves forward for election! Seemples!!!

  6. How ridiculous, if you gave Tony Blair a huge pension he would have gone out and grubbed about for money as well and just been even better off.

  7. Well Dean. That may be true. He got his earldom and retired quietly.

    But of course in these days they ere pretty old by the time they became PM, and even older by the time they retired and Mr M was massively rich in his own right. He made even the Thatchers look poor.

    The question is why should a prime minister retire into wealth which we must provide for him (or her). If a pm must then I guess we should do the same for a deputy pm, and foreign and home secretary... and chancellor and leader of the lords. How far should we go down?

    What about people whose tenure was very short... for whatever reason? What about people rejected after a short time by the people, or by their own party...

    What about all the other ministers, or ministers in devolved administrations?

    Or councillors!!!

    And are these people any better or worse, more entitled to or less entitled to what any member of society is...?

  8. Cricky Bugger...

    I culled this from Wikipedai:

    "In 2003 she moved from Perthshire, Scotland to her native North Yorkshire[9] after buying a 200-acre (0.81 km2) farm near Ampleforth to accommodate her 27 Angora goats. The fleeces are washed, spun and dyed, producing Mohair wool for her farm business, creating socks for the gun makers Purdey, growing into her own company designing and creating socks.[10] Through this venture she has greatly enhanced her role as a Countryside Custodian whilst living in an area designated as an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. She has two dogs, one of which is Nip, a female collie cross and Kiki, a German shepherd she rescued from Majorca"

    I think she must have been telling lies! Although there is clearly a connection with Mallorca!

  9. Erm Yes Indyanhate:

    Maybe you should re-write the constitution....
    and then again, maybe you shouldn't....

    Don't you think that what you would achieve is that only women would go for the job?

  10. Indeed he would Munguin.

    And there is no one who could really stop him.

    I really think though that when he travels in the course of money making ventures he should refund the government for his protection.

    Of course he has made a hefty contribution to the English British Legion, although I think his God might have though better of him if he had done it annoymously.

  11. If these people need protecting then that surely means they couldn't of done a good job in the first place, they should fund their own protection rather than wrapped in cotton wool.


    Simple, forget about them.

  13. CH... I'd be happy with that. I'm not sure why they need cars and drivers. Surely someone bright enough to be able to do the job of PM would manage to pick up a bit of driving.

    Those that are too dim could take the bus... or on £60,000 a year manage a taxi.

    I'm wondering why they have to have us fund offices too. They are no longer prime ministers, why do they need offices? And if they do need them, it's not to our benefit, so why do we have to pay for them?

  14. Yes Allan... would that we could.

    Poor old John Major is more or less forgotten. As Dean says he behaved with dignity in retirement, although he has been writing books on cricket and reading them for Radio 4, so clearly £60,000 a year isn't enough for him.

    But who could forget Thatcher or that awful Blair.

    Brown has been completely forgotten already. As an after dinner speaker he would be a complete disaster. Folk would suddenly remember a train they had to catch, or some ironing they had to do, some would retire to the bar and the rest would fall asleep.

  15. Tris,

    MacMillan might have been rich, but it was through his writing and publishing business - perfectly reasonable past times for an Ex-PM.

    Frankly, whether or not he was rich or not isn't an issue. What matters is how he conducted himself in order to get that wealth.

    Major has always refused to take a peerage, happy being plain old Sir, MacMillan retired, to his notes and to his publishing, Wilson retired to a similar quiet dignity.

    Blair, Thatcher didn't. I echo an above comment "forget about them", unless they say something of note, like MacMillan in the lords talking about Thatcher "selling the family silver".

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  17. PS....Apart from the money situation, has anyone noticed that Her Majesty seems to be very publicly snubbing Tony Blair for honors usually accorded an ex Prime Minister? He has been offered neither a peerage nor a Garter Knighthood. Is it conceivable that Her Majesty considers it appropriate that, for example, John Major be a Knight of the Garter, and as important an historical figure as Tony Blair NOT be? Maybe the royals feel that only Tories are fit to govern the country. A major Labour Prime Minister need not apply.

    First there was the excuse that the next Garter appointment (the thousandth one) must NOT go to a lowly commoner. So William got that one. And we are in need of one for Harry of course. William and Harry are SO much more important to the country than a mere Prime Minister. What a joke! (It really is time to dump the monarchy and establish a modern republic, IMHO.)

    Then there was the feeble excuse that since Blair is a Scot by birth, he would receive the Order of the Thistle. FAT CHANCE. Her Majesty immediately filled the only two Thistle openings as quickly as possible...neither one going to Tony.

    All this must well be viewed as exceedingly unseemly, even by the now greatly tarnished standards of the House of Windsor.

  18. Dean...

    I don’t dispute that. You misunderstand me.

    HMc was rich, and had been all his life. He had no need to any pension or money making mechanism as a retired PM. He was nearly 70 and he simply resumed the chairmanship of his own company. He also published his memoires in 6 volumes. Perhaps without all the fuss that attended Mrs Thatcher’s or Mr Blair’s, but I don’t know that anyone’s memoires would have attracted that kind of publicity in the 1960s.

    Of course he was also eventually given a title and a seat in the lords as an Earl and a Viscount! So that was quite a reward. (I know he resisted it for a long time.)

    Alex Douglas Hume was weird in that he went back to being Foreign Secretary. Then he was given back his Lord title and went back to country estate, pretty well off.

    I wasn’t having a go at him.... But the whole point of this was to find out if people thought that we should provide enough money for people so that they didn’t have to prostitute themselves in “retirement”. He certainly didn’t have to.

  19. What I was trying to find out Danny, was whether or not people felt that in some way Prime Ministers (and why not include Presidents) should automatically be entitled to ahve the grand life when they step down.

    If, as Ming Campbell suggested, when they are ill they should be entitled to private care, instead of being bunged into a old people’s farm like the rest of us will be?

    You see, I come from the place which says that the likes of Harold Wilson was born, just like you and me; he went into politics whilst you and I went into something else; he climbed his way to the top... something I would hate to do, but he wanted to; probably along the way he stood on a lot of people. You don’t get to the top in politics, or anywhere else without a certain amount of that. He got the top job; he retired; he got sick... It happens to thousands of other people... and they end up in an old folks home (at least in the UK), if they are lucky. If not it is a geriatric ward... and god knows they are terrible.

    Why should a prime minister be any different from anyone else? He was an elected politician.

    Well, he was the prime minister some people will say...


    In Switzerland, the federal president is elected for a year. After that year he goes back to his job and gets on with it. He is elected from the people; he returns to the people. The same thing happens in Scotland with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He is elected for only a year, then he goes back to just being an ordinary minister.

    I’m not sure that we need PMs to go on dispensing their so-called ‘wisdom’ for long after they have reached the dizzy heights of premiership.

    Or presidents for that matter ... Imagine ‘The Wisdom of George W Bush’. (Subtitled, 'How to Put Food on your Family!')

  20. Blair has probably been offered a seat in the Lords Danny. It seems that they get that as of right, although some prefer not to take it.

    Mrs Blair is very very anti all that stuff, although I don't know about him. She would hate to be Lady Blair, and yet, if he takes the seat in the Lords, she would be obliged to be Lady Blair.

    The used to get earldoms, I think MacMillan was the last to get one. Wilson and Callaghan had to make do with life peerages, as did Thatcher, but she had already secured an hereditary title for her husband, so her obnoxious, but beloved son could get a title.

    Mr Heath and Mr Major have taken these knighthood things but no seat in the Lords. Mr Blair may yet get something, but again there would be the issue of his wife accepting the title too.

    It seems that although she is a greedy woman she doesn't have time for titles.

    I’m not sure about the Queen not giving these things Danny. I’m sure she would treat them all the same whether or not she liked them; whether or not they were Labour or Tory. I imagine it’s all the same to her.

    She probably doesn’t much like them. They’re all grubby little “arrivists”. But it’s her job, and whatever we may say about her on the republic, she does it quite well. It’s just that the next in line won’t!

  21. Hard to compare prime ministers with presidents I guess. In modern times, presidents, as head of state, have almost become elected kings....never directly addressed by name, people stand in their presence, etc, etc. But as late as Harry Truman (FDR's successor), presidents had no public pension when they left office. Some, like Truman, who had no personal wealth struggled with money problems. This was considered unseemly. So beginning with Eisenhower, presidents received a life pension. Today, that yearly retirement income is equal to the regular salary of Executive Level I personnel (cabinet Secretaries). This is now something over $200,000 yearly. In addition there are large allowances for office expenses, staff, travel, etc. In a recent year, Bill Clinton received a little over $1 Million in total remuneration. As for additional income, speaking fees and book royalties are considered suitable presidential earnings. But you can go too far. Ronald Reagan, after he left office, accepted an offer to speak to a group in Japan for a total fee in excess of two million dollars. There was a huge public outcry, and he never tried that again.

    If for no other reason than that of personal protection, it is accepted that presidents can never return to their pre-presidential life. Living presidents and their spouses, through Bill Clinton, have secret service protection for life. Surprisingly, in 1997, a law was passed which limited secret service protection for presidents (after Bill Clinton) to 10 years after leaving office. So George W. Bush will be the first recent president not to receive lifetime protection. But this law was passed before 9/11 and the age of terrorism. So it's likely that the issue of lifetime protection will be revisited as soon as a former president nears 10 years out of office.

    Like so many things, this is an area that is full of symbolism and strong feelings. But in the larger scheme of governmental expenditures, the amount spent on Presidential retirement (and I would assume, Prime Ministerial retirement) is irrelevant to the national budget.

  22. They sound more like Gods than presidents Danny.

    I'm not sure it is a good thing to allow them, or prime ministers to get above themselves.

    I really fear that that is the problem with how things are run. People like that and to a lesser extent the farther down the greasy pole you go, begin to believe that they are all they are cracked up to be.

    Something apart...

    They shouldn’t be. If they are they can’t do their jobs.

    I imagine though that Bushette will need protection forever... He must be one of the most hated men on earth.

  23. Yes, Bush will need to keep his protection for sure. Funny ex-presidents go, he has so far taken the high road. Even as everyone in his administration from Dick Cheney on down have made political nuisances of themselves, DubYa has maintained a public silence. One might assume that he will speak out during the mid terms...or at least by 2012. On the other hand, maybe not. He's not popular even with the Republicans....war, record deficits, economic disaster, the Katrina response, etc. Maybe best not to remind people of that.

    I fully agree with your comments about Presidents and Prime Ministers. Much has been made of the so-called "imperial presidency" of modern times. But in fact, many of the presidential traditions actually started with George Washington. He insisted that people remain standing in his presence. At least modern presidents usually ask people to be seated (after they have first stood respectfully). And modern presidents shake hands. George didn't think it appropriate. He also used "Excellency" as his form of address. But this fell out of favor with his successors, in favor of addressing the office as "Mr. President."

    Compared with all this, Prime Ministers may actually be seen to have the common touch....LOL.

  24. I should imagine that Bush is still in a situation where most people would prefer him not to speak up for them... He hardly has a proud record.

    I sometimes think about all these words that people like to have before their names... "excellency" "majesty" "highness"....

    I think they are all hilarious when you stop and think what they really mean. After all, how excellent or majestic or indeed high are most of them?

    All said they all have to eat, sleep and pee... just like everyone else..

    Even prince Charles who seems to believe he belongs to a race apart....