Steerpike

Keir’s £1,500 oil painting

Keir's £1,500 oil painting
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Boris Johnson isn't the only party leader doing renovations it seems. The newly updated parliamentary register of interests has been released this week, two months after the Owen Paterson scandal triggered an exodus of MPs from their second jobs. Not all though appear to have embraced the new hair shirt mentality though, with Sir Keir Starmer declaring receipt of a £1,500 oil painting from artist Tim Benson. Is he measuring up the No. 10 flat already? Let's hope it fits with the Lulu Lytle wallpaper.

Starmer wasn't the only MP to catch Steerpike's eye. Take the tallest MP in the House, Daniel Kawczynski, the honourable member for serial controversy. He's now declared receiving almost £1,000 in pro bono legal advice at the end of last year – which of his various scrapes was that for? Steve Brine's 2022 resolution is clearly for less damaging headlines, given he stood down on New Year's Eve as the £1,600-a-month strategic adviser to healthcare recruitment firm Remedium Partners. Former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell also renounced his advisory roles at Investec and Ernst and Young. Theo Clarke meanwhile quietly left her gig as vice chairman of the Conservative Friends of International Development – having, er, voted for the cut to foreign aid some six months previously. Whoops! 

The furlough-loving Carlton Club was one of the month's big donors, donating £10,000 to two Tories fearing a Lib Dem resurgence – Alex Chalk and Elliot Colburn – plus free membership for Dr Dan Poulter, worth £1,700. There was also a return to gift-giving ways for Lord Cruddas who covered the costs of two dinners for Sir Bernard Jenkin over two days and played the fairy godmother to James Wild's Cinderella by paying for him to go to the Conservative winter party. Entertainment indeed seems to have been a theme of the last few months, with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey getting a free ticket to the Royal Variety show while Labour's Jon Ashworth preferred Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical.

Steerpike's favourite student Trot Zarah Sultana has also had to declare that the MOBO Award hospitality she so enjoyed was worth a tidy £450. Sultana tweeted numerous maskless pictures of herself at the celebrity shindig – having declared on the BBC she was 'terrified' of being in the House of Commons chamber with Tory MPs not wearing face coverings. Tom Tugendhat got a case of wine when touring the infamous grassroots' 'rubber chicken circuit' while Caroline Nokes has clearly embraced the spirit of COP26 by receiving £675 in second hand goods. And Matt Hancock's appearance at the Capital Jingle Bell Ball, at which he wore THAT outfit, was worth some £400.

For MPs in Westminster, the show must indeed go on.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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