Open wide for a scrape with Mrs T

Daily Mail - - News - Craig Brown www.dai­ly­mail.co.uk/craig­brown

Uproar greeted the news that for­mer Chan­cel­lor George os­borne had added the ed­i­tor­ship of the London Evening Stan­dard to his ever-ex­pand­ing port­fo­lio, writes this col­umn’s vet­eran political cor­re­spon­dent, Har­vey Bore­ham.

But th­ese crit­ics seem to have for­got­ten quite how many top politi­cians have held down sec­ondary jobs.

For in­stance, through­out his time as Deputy Leader of the Labour party, John prescott worked Thurs­days, Fri­days and Satur­days as chief ex­ec­u­tive bouncer at Hol­ly­wood Nites dis­cotheque in Hull.

‘It gave me a tremen­dous sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity’, he wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. ‘I could make snap de­ci­sions as to who was in and who was out with­out hav­ing to con­sult my Cab­i­net col­leagues.’ among se­nior Con­ser­va­tives, Mar­garet Thatcher never al­lowed her prime Min­is­te­rial du­ties to in­ter­fere with her part-time po­si­tion as a den­tal hy­gien­ist at a prac­tice in nearby pim­lico.

‘Scrap­ing, scal­ing and pol­ish­ing, of­ten with brute force, is the most mar­vel­lous re­lax­ation from the cares of high of­fice’, she told Jimmy Young in 1987. ‘and what I al­ways tell my pa­tients is the more it hurts, the bet­ter I feel. I feel it my duty to im­press upon them that they’ve only them­selves to blame.’

other prime Min­is­ters have taken on a mixed range of pro­fes­sions. For three years run­ning, Theresa May won the pres­ti­gious Maiden­head park­ing War­den of the Year award, the judges prais­ing her for her ‘dili­gent and nonon­sense ap­proach’, to traf­fic en­force­ment, and sin­gled out her ‘whole­hearted refusal to sanc­tion ex­cuses, how­ever rea­son­able’.

on tak­ing up the prime Min­is­ter­ship last year, she re­signed from her post as se­nior war­den. ‘But I do like to keep my hand in, so I of­ten take a de­tour from my of­fi­cial walk­a­bouts in or­der to is­sue park­ing tick­ets on a ca­sual ba­sis,’ she told the BBC’s an­drew Marr.

as an ex­pe­ri­enced es­tate agent, her pre­de­ces­sor, David Cameron, al­ways took a break from West­min­ster to show cus­tomers around lux­ury homes in the West­min­ster area on Tues­day and Thurs­day af­ter­noons.

‘I have a par­tic­u­lar pas­sion for what we call the top end of the market,’ he ex­plained to Kirsty Young on Desert Is­land Discs. ‘So I think our clients feel a very strong sense of re­as­sur­ance when they dis­cover that the man showing them around is also their prime Min­is­ter.’

When Cameron first en­tered No. 10 in 2010, he came across one or two tell-tale signs of Gor­don Brown’s re­cent res­i­dency, in­clud­ing a black top hat still perched on the hat­stand.

Brown had never let his ca­reer as an un­der­taker get in the way of his du­ties as prime Min­is­ter. He had in­sisted, for in­stance, that coffins be de­liv­ered to the back en­trance, so that politi­cians and heads of state should not have to squeeze around them in the hall of No. 10.

He found the best way to avoid mix­ing up his two jobs was to treat all vis­i­tors the same.

Whereas other prime Min­is­ters might greet vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries with the words: ‘ Wel­come to London,’ Brown pre­ferred to put on a som­bre face and say: ‘ My con­do­lences on your sad loss,’ just in case.

George os­borne’s pre­de­ces­sors as Chan­cel­lor had sim­i­larly var­ied sec­ondary pro­fes­sions. De­nis Healey was a High Street butcher, whilst Nigel Law­son was a cir­cus ring­mas­ter. For many decades, Nor­man La­mont’s book­maker’s stall — ‘Hon­est Nor­man’s’ — was a much- loved feature at Chep­stow and Towces­ter races.

Writ­ing in Worth a punt, La­mont’s me­moirs of his time in of­fice, he said: ‘I al­ways felt it was my duty as Chan­cel­lor to de­liver ma­jor state­ments in per­son, re­gard­less of the ef­fect it may have on my liveli­hood.

‘I never feel I was given due credit for asking the Chief Sec­re­tary to the Trea­sury to take over the stall on Bud­get days.’

Ken­neth Clarke is still a firm be­liever in politi­cians hav­ing other strings to their bow.

Clarke was, fa­mously, lead vo­cal­ist with Ken’s all- Star Chatanooga Sun­shine Band, and was the only Chan­cel­lor in re­cent his­tory to de­liver his au­tumn State­ment to a boo­gie-woo­gie pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

In the present day, Labour’s Shadow Chan­cel­lor, John McDon­nell, dou­bles up as a store de­tec­tive. Labour leader, Jeremy Cor­byn is in cater­ing, run­ning a suc­cess­ful whole­sale shred­ded car­rot stall at Cam­den Market on al­ter­nate Tues­days, weather per­mit­ting.

‘or­di­nary, de­cent vot­ers want to know that you have a suc­cess­ful life out­side pol­i­tics,’ he re­cently ob­served to The Shred­ded Car­rot Traders Gazette.

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