Runners and riders in the race for No 10

They’re off and running in the Tory election race (with 10 Downing Street as the bonus) and the principals have pulled in favours and a serious amount of money to back their bids. Unlike a Parliamentary election there’s no limit on what they can spend, so it’s a bit like a US Presidential race, although they do have to declare what they have received in the Parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests.

My dear friend Michael Gove is slowest out of the blocks. As of last week it looks as if he’s received just £5000 from Henry Lumley, who’s worth around £120 million. You’ll have to apply the whip Michael or you’ll be left at the starting gate.

Dominic Raab, the Brexiteers Brexiteer, has raised £69k, including £10k from Lord Philip Harris, chairman of Carpetright, who has piled in. Harris, is co-owner of the showjumping horse Hello Sanctus, which won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics for Peebles own Scott Brash.

The perma-sneering Jeremy Hunt has brought in at least £84k, with two hedge fund managers each kicking in £10k. Hunt is the richest person in the Cabinet of millionaires, which is his only known achievement.

Rory Stewart, who is roaming the country without a bus pass and passing off his campaign as a DIY effort, has raised over £50k, including £10k from the Russian hedge fund manager Lev Mikheev, and the same amount from Khaled Said, the son of Wafic Said, the fixer who brokered the murky £80+ billion Al-Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia. Rory has also had £10k from 53-year-old Edward Cadogan, or Viscount Chelsea, heir to the £6bn family fortune built on, no prizes here, owning large parts of Chelsea.

The favourite, neigh the racing certainty, Boris Johnson, has so far racked up more than £90k with many days and furlongs still to go. Anthony Bamford and his excavator company have dug in for £28k and Jonathan Wood, a financier, gave £25k just days ago. Wood appears to be a tax exile in Switzerland. If so that donation would be illegal if it was given to the Tory party, or indeed any other party, because donations from foreign residents is banned.

The register provides lots of other sporting interest reading. John Bercow, the Speaker, seems to have a best pal in the boxing promoter Frank Warren who gave him more than £1000 of football tickets. And referee and Moray MP Douglas Ross reveals that for a Scottish Premiership game he gets £435, but a grand or more when he’s waving cards at Johnny Foreigner in European games.

Ron McKay: Plotting the New World Order, the man from the CIA, stravaiging with Rory and getting Dizzy with BoJo

Swede and sour

Stealthily, without consultation and with nary a peep of publicity that I can see, the parliamentary standards watchdog has introduced a pilot scheme where MPs get an extra £500 to cover their constituency travel. If the scheme is successful and introduced it will save MPs having to fill in pesky forms to claim for each individual journey. It may even save money, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

It may seem an uncontroversial measure but if you compare it with what happens in Sweden it’s a democratic outrage which would have them invading the Riksdag, although as the parliament is on an island in Stockholm it might be problematic. Swedish politicians don’t enjoy special privileges, they don’t get official cars and drivers so they have to use public transport like ordinary mortals. Only the Prime Minister gets a car and then for security reasons since PM Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986.

Swedish MPs also don’t get allowances for homes and second homes. On parliamentary duty they live in small, state-owned apartments in Stockholm where they have to do their own washing and ironing in communal laundries. According to the Swedish system of values no one is superior to another. All information is available to the populace under the oldest transparency law in the world, dating back to 1766. Everyone’s tax returns are also available for scrutiny.

In 1995 the Deputy Prime Minister Mona Sahlin was sacked from her post after she bought a bar of chocolate, some nappies and other family items on a government credit card. It was known as the Toblerone Affair. Never mind that she had already paid the money back when it came out, she went. Contrast that with money doled out to our lot for moat cleaning, summer houses, porn videos and shopping at Harrods.

All this and Abba too.

Ron McKay: Castle hopping, plane spotting, stalking Bojo and a Rubbish scheme

Beating the Stockholm Syndrome

Which brings me to the late James Aloysius Joseph Patrick Gabriel Wray. Among his other jobs Jimmy was an MP, including for his own patch, the Gorbals. He died just over six years ago. It’s no surprise that he was known as IRA Wray. At the height of the Provisionals’ London bombing campaign he was wont to tell fellow MPs he liked, and trusted, “Ah wouldnae go up the toon tonight, the boys will be busy.”

Jimmy was also the Commons jeweller. He carried a selection of watches, up his arms and inside his jacket, so colleagues were spoiled for style and choice. Each Christmas he would buy up a forest of fir trees and drive round the Gorbals, donating to each home which hadn’t one in the window. Which must have been difficult with the high flats.

He also had some kind of sinecure with the European Commission whose expenses allowed him to drive Gorbals kids who had never been out of the city to the Continent, claiming mileage of course.

He didn’t like to fly (perhaps the claim wasn’t sufficient) but I met him once at Glasgow Airport when he was off to Brussels or Strasbourg and and I asked him why had no luggage or change of clothes. “I’ll buy them when I get there,” he replied. Presumably on expenses.

None of this is to be approved of. And certainly wouldn’t pass the Stockholm test.

That sinking feeling

The present for someone of a certain persuasion who has everything, except taste. It’s the Celtic Limited Edition Inflatable Spa, yours for a mere £399. It’s ready to fill in five minutes and has a cushioned floor apparently and can seat up to four adults. Probably five if you are of the Jimmy Johnstone dimension. There’s a crest on the front which the manufacturers say you have to kiss before you get in otherwise it may boil bathers. Perhaps I made that bit up. I don’t know if it comes with a puncture kit and rubber patches but I certainly hope it isn’t as porous as the Celtic transfer plan.

Over at the other side of the divide there’s nothing as family friendly, although if you want to shop early there’s the Santa Christmas jumper now at half price. But I wouldn’t.

But the cream of the tat is provided by Manchester United, or rather their sink sponsor Kohler. The company has created a limited edition "vessel and faucet" combination – that's sink and tap in non-PR – in sterling silver and 24 carat gold plate. The front is engraved with the Man U crest and "League Winners 16 May 1999" and the sides commemorate that year's European and FA Cup wins, the treble, with 123 for the number of goals scored. Sadly there isn't a toilet, down which the team's season went this time. I would have asked the price of it but, as the old saw has it, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

When the girls go up to lift the World Cup

The Scottish women’s football team kicks off the World Cup campaign this evening against the Auld Enemy. I’ll be watching and cheering on Shelley Kerr’s girls and probably putting a fiver on them. The odds are around 14/1 with England 1/5, so it’s tempting. The women’s game has come on spectacularly in the last decade, it’s pacy, skilful and, hopefully in this tournament, without the histrionics of the men’s game. For the first time in a women’s competition VAR – the Video Assistant Referee – is to be used, so we shouldn’t have any successful belly flops in the box or offside goals.

I offer the following tentatively and stand ready to be chastised and corrected. The only failing, and it’s a genetic one, is between the sticks. Goal frames were designed by men for men. In the senior men's game goalkeepers today are normally well over six feet (whatever that is in metres) with Celtic and Scotland’s Scott Bain one of the small ones at a hair over six feet. Scotland women’s 'keeper Lee Alexander is 5”6’. How can she possibly have the reach and spread of a male? Shouldn’t there be a proportionate decrease in the size of goals for women’s games?