DALE Iain Krieg illustration square

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

Listening to Nick Ferrari interview Nick Clegg this week, I started to wonder about his future. I doubt very much he will stand at the next election. It must be pure torture for him to sit in the Commons struggling for space alongside the hordes from north of the border.

The loss of ministerial privileges must be a blow for anyone who loses office, but for a man who was Deputy Prime Minister one minute and an ordinary backbench MP the next, it must have been especially painful, even for someone who doesn’t seem to be particularly hung up on the trappings of office.

So what now for Clegg? He’s 48 and clearly still hungry to do something meaningful. It’s not cruel to say that he won’t be able to do that while remaining a Liberal Democrat MP. I suspect he will end up with a reasonably high profile EU or UN job, but that he won’t take it until after 2020, since he won’t want to cause a by-election in Sheffield Hallam his party would almost certainly lose. He knows he owes his it that much.

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Good to see Harry Cole going straight, and joining the Sun as Westminster Correspondent. He will leave a big gap in the Guido Fawkes team and will be very difficult to replace.

When he started with Guido, I thought Paul Staines had made a big mistake in taking a step back, and that people read Guido for Paul’s utterings, not other people’s.

He turned out to be right, though. Harry has turned into an excellent story-getter and a talented journalist. He is also a very nice guy with an impish sense of humour. Let’s hope the Lobby doesn’t knock it out of him!

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It was good to catch up with Tim Montgomerie, late of this parish, on Wednesday for a rather nice lunch. He should be very proud of what he created with this site and of his contribution in general to the intra-Conservative debate. The party needs more original thinkers like Tim, and even though sometimes his recipes are uncomfortable for the party leadership to hear, and even if one disagrees with his conclusions you can never accuse him of being vanilla.

I was, however, appalled to find that Tim is on a diet. So no pudding. I always hate that point in a lunch when the waiter comes round and offers the dessert menu. Whoever I am lunching with invariably declines, so of course then I do too.

So for future lunch companions, let me say this. Pudding is the part of the lunch I always look forward to most. Which you’d know if you ever bothered to look at my waistline. Best not to, though.

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I know this makes me sound as if all I do is lunch and breakfast, but on Wednesday I met a Biteback author, Paul Twivy, for breakfast at the Groucho Club. (Sausage bap, since you ask). I’d never been there before and what an odd place it is – nothing like the Reform Club, it has to be said!

Paul is one of those people who has an infectious enthusiasm for everything he does. He was one of the architects of the Big Society project and has written a brilliant little polemic called Be your own politician. In it, he argues for massive political reform and shows how voters can take power back for themselves.

I highly recommend reading this book alongside Steve Hilton’s. In some ways they argue from a similar viewpoint, but offer rather different solutions. It is, however, notable that it’s the right that is driving this agenda at the moment. The left is nowhere to be seen.

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I thought it’d be interesting to have Tracey Crouch, the new Sports Minister, on my LBC show last Friday to discuss England’s latest World Cup match – in ladies football, natch.

After a natter about the importance of women’s football (it didn’t take long), I asked her if she could ever foresee the day when a woman would play in a male professional league. “Well,” she said, “it nearly happened two years ago when a female Mexican player almost signed for an Italian second division team.” And she went on to give the full details of the abortive transfer.

Later in the interview, she displayed a knowledge of the sport which left me open-mouthed. OK, she’s an accredited FA coach, but it showed that she is probably one of the best ministerial appointments of the reshuffle. The proverbial round peg in a round hole. I even forgive her for supporting Tottenham. Well, she has to have a flaw somewhere.

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Word on the street is that there won’t be much of an exhibition this year at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth. However, some organisations are tied into three year contracts, and the LibDems are making clear that they will insist on full payment for any company or pressure groups which fails to show, having previously booked.

Lobbyists are also said to be giving it a miss, and you can understand why. Politics is an unforgiving game, and there’s little sentiment in it. I have to say I love going to Bournemouth, but I think I will have an uphill climb to persuade my colleagues that there is any merit in joining the yellow peril this year. It would be the equivalent of a sympathy shag. Not, er, that I have any experience in the matter. Ahem.

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So Patrick McLoughlin has appointed Sir Peter Hendy to chair Network Rail. For the uninitiated, Hendy has been running Transport for London for the last ten years. He’s a complete Ken Livingston acolyte, and has basically continued the latter’s transport policies even during Boris Johnson’s mayoralty.

When Boris became mayor the first thing I advised him to do was sack Hendy, who has presided over one of the most incompetent transport authorities in Britain. On 3 May 2008, I wrote:

““This afternoon Boris Johnson goes to City Hall for the first time as Mayor. He will be meeting Sir Ian Blair and Peter Hendy, the head of Transport for London. He doesn’t have the executive power to fire Sir Ian, but he can get rid of Hendy. He should take the opportunity now, and start as he means to go on. You’re never so powerful as you are in your first hundred days as an elected politician. The people of London voted for real change. It’s up to Boris to ensure that they get it, and it’s not more of the same.”

Sadly, Boris kept Hendy on. He said to me once: “I don’t understand why you’ve got it in for Hendy. Bloody good bloke”. I beg to differ. When he got a knighthood in 2012 I must admit I nearly self-combusted. I wrote on my blog:

“And then there’s Peter bloody Hendy. He’s also been made a Knight of the Realm. For what? Presiding over one of the worst run and profligate quangos in Britain, Transport for London? Perhaps it’s for continuing to implement a London transport policy dreamt up by Ken Livingstone, and constantly pulling the wool over Boris Johnson’s eyes.”

Sir Peter, for it is he, is an inveterate empire builder, hates car drivers, and has presided over an organisation in which literally dozens of people earn more than £100,000 – and the number that earn more than the Prime Minister is a long way into double figures.

At TFL, Sir Peter earned £650,000 a year at one point; now that’s down to a mere £500,000 or so. I doubt if he’s taken a pay cut to chair Network Rail. I’ll leave it to you to evaluate whether he’s value for money. I can only assume Timmy Mallett was unavailable.

46 comments for: Iain Dale: It’s scandalous that dozens of people at Transport for London earn over £100,000 a year

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