What words of wisdom have seen Boris Johnson pocket nearly £1m in speeches? - Jayne Dowle

I hope disgraced former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is enjoying a very happy Christmas with the £1m he’s earned from making just three speeches since he left office in October.

Parliamentary records show that, according to the latest register of MPs’ interests, he received £754,000 for three speeches in America, India and Portugal last month, on top of £276,000 he earned for talking to a bunch of American insurers in a cosy fireside chat in Colorado in October.

These kinds of figures are eye-watering, especially when they’re going into the pocket of a man who not so long ago totally bemused the assembled august members of the CBI (Confederation of British Industries) by rambling on about Peppa Pig.

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What on earth does he say to these people to justify such a fat wad? What infinite words of wisdom is he imparting to them that he somehow failed to find when he led the country, yes through a pandemic, but towards international shame when it transpired that Downing Street was partying whilst the rest of us had no choice but to stay locked up in our houses? Let’s not forget, he was in charge when we were unable to see friends or family, or in many cases, even earn a living, for months on end.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the CBI annual conference in 2021. PIC: Owen Humphreys/PA WireFormer Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the CBI annual conference in 2021. PIC: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the CBI annual conference in 2021. PIC: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

I know that he is not only the former PM to be in such demand that he can command six-figure sums in recompense for turning up, shrugging on a suit (presumably) and talking off the top of his head (highly likely).

Members’ interests also show that Theresa May has pocketed a tidy sum on the after-dinner speaking circuit.

In November, it was reported that since she left Downing Street, she has made in the region of £2m with this extra string to her bow, and once got paid £1m for 70 hours work.

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However, surely the Honourable Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip has some making up to do at home, starting with his constituents, who have barely seen him for years.

It's not sour grapes, honestly. I regularly do 70-hour weeks, and that’s just to keep food on the table and the heating on, some of the time, at least.

And I do accept that I’m not, nor never will be a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, so no-one is going to give me £1m for telling them how the pandemic was for me.

However, I do find it extremely rich (excuse the pun) that serving MPs can be allowed to take time off from constituency and Parliamentary business to jet around the world raking it in. Especially when most of the rest of the country is suffering from the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

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If we ever needed an illustration of the yawning chasm between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ here it is. How on earth can any MP earning this kind of sum have any kind of sympathy or understanding with the struggles ordinary people are going through?

It's reported that through her own company, Mrs May pays herself an annual salary of £85,000 with the surplus earnings presumably invested wisely.

This is surprisingly modest, given that many local authority and NHS head honchos, not to mention feather-bedded university vice-chancellors, are paid at least twice, even three or four times that.

I kind of think she’s doing the right thing, but with Mr Johnson, his profiteering from power, and gaining from a pandemic in which thousands of people lost their lives, seems particularly grubby.

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Surely a man of his calibre could be directed usefully by his boss (and former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak) towards spending his days doing something which would actually benefit the British public, instead of bolstering his own nest, currently a Cotswolds residence funded by JCB boss Lord Bamford, who also donated £23,853 towards the Johnson nuptials this summer.

It makes Matt Hancock’s soiree in the Australian jungle almost, but not quite, excusable. And at least the former Health Secretary cum light entertainment turn has announced that he will be stepping down from politics at the next General Election. That’s about the most honourable thing he’s done for years.

This kind of monetisation is especially galling when Conservative MPs regularly knock back demands to make the so-called living wage more realistic in fiscal terms, increase out-of-work benefit levels to something approaching enough, and even refuse to allow disadvantaged children free school meals.

I’m reminded of what Labour’s Dan Jarvis, the Labour member for Barnsley Central, always says. Being an MP, in his book, is very much like being an Army major (his former profession) in one overriding sense; it is his duty to serve.