Lord Heseltine: One of the richest men in Parliament
Conservatively estimated to be worth more than £200 million, publisher and Tory patrician Lord Heseltine has always shown a slavish devotion to the European Union throughout his political career.
But it is surprising to learn just how much money the former deputy prime minister — one of the richest men in Parliament — receives from EU taxpayers.
For I learn that silver-haired Heseltine has been benefiting from a generous income from Brussels in the form of farming subsidies.
Hezza, 77, who handed the reins of his hugely successful Haymarket publishing empire to son Rupert 13 months ago, has, over the years, been enjoying average payments of around £90,000-a-year for his farming activities across 1,255 acres in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.
Figures for the ten years from 2000 to 2009 show he pocketed a plethora of subsidies.
Writer and ‘transparency’ campaigner Jack Thurston, who uncovered the figures under a Freedom of Information request, says that since 2007 these separate subsidies have been rolled into one entity called the ‘single payment scheme’.
Says Thurston, who helps run non-profit website farmsubsidy.org: ‘They took the average of what each farmer was paid in the three years from 2000 to the end of 2002 and then the farmers are simply paid that sum every year thereafter.
‘People think EU farm subsidies go to small farmers who need a helping hand or poor hill farmers. In fact, those who benefit most are the large farmers who own the nation’s best agricultural land.
‘People we talk to think it is wrong that wealthy landowners should receive what amounts to income support.’
However, Lord Heseltine disputes the amounts and tells me: ‘Those figures bear no relationship to anything we have actually received.’
He adds he has no qualms about receiving the subsidies, saying: ‘This is the whole basis of the European agricultural system. Without the agricultural support system, you would drive farming out of existence in this country.
‘The fact that I am a wealthy man is quite irrelevant.’
So is it Catherine or Kate? The wedding invitations have Miss Catherine Middleton but Prince William refers to his fiancee as both. Maybe there is a clue in the Buckingham Palace gift shop.
Pride of place among the commemorative crockery is a £7.99 paperback, William & Kate. Meanwhile, Kate/Catherine may be more royal than we thought.
Film-maker Charlotte Eagar says she has stumbled across a link that shows Kate is Henry VIII’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter. So perhaps she will not be quite the middle-class Queen we thought.
Why Clare’s put family on ice
Clare Hurd: ‘I adore children and will put having my own on ice while I finish my degree’
Some six months after forming her own coalition with Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd, Tory grandee the Marquess of Lothian’s daughter Lady Clare is enthusiastic about their domestic union.
‘Married life is wonderful, but like my parents, ours is a political marriage,’ she says. ‘Nick is often working late or voting, but it is something I am used to.’
Clare, 31, whose father is Michael Ancram, is anyway busy herself, studying for an MA in psychotherapy at London’s Institute for Arts and Therapy in Education.
‘I’ve already been working with troubled children in King’s Cross,’ she tells me at Wednesday’s Parliamentary Palace of Varieties at the Park Lane Hotel, where she and her guitar-playing father performed.
‘I adore children and will put having my own on ice while I finish my degree. This is a vocation — I want to help children as a psychotherapist. I am very lucky that a gift from my grandfather in his will enables me to pay the fees.’
Of her love of music she says: ‘Singing brings me great joy.’
Clare helps organise a regular family knees-up with her husband — son of former foreign secretary Lord Hurd — his four children by his previous marriage and his ex-wife Kim. ‘We call ourselves the Old Boots and meet most Friday evenings around the piano,’ she says.
Her decision to spend £40 million transforming the gardens of Alnwick Castle was met with controversy, not least because it was partly funded by public money.
Now Alnwick’s chatelaine, the 12th Duchess of Northumberland has another scheme up her sleeve to promote the castle, which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
Taking inspiration from her ‘poison garden’ — one of the few places in Britain where it is legal to grow cannabis and opium poppies — Jane Percy, 51, is planning her own range of pesticides and weedkillers and has filed a trademark application with the Intellectual Property Office to trade under the name ‘Deadly Jane’.
‘She is evidently cashing in on her “poisonous” reputation,’ chortles my spy in the North. The mother of four is reluctant to talk about the venture, but the IPO says the trademarks are in the current Trade Marks Journal and objectors have two months to oppose them.
Heather joins the Ford squad
Road trip: ‘Heather loved the idea of travelling the open road with her kids’
In the unlikely event that the yachts have to go, along with the £30 million house, the Bentley, the Aston and the Lamborghini, then the beleaguered Tchenguiz brothers — arrested by the Serious Fraud Squad this week — can always rest their heads in a recent acquisition: a camper van.
The second-hand Ford Transit was bought by Robbie Tchenguiz’s estranged wife Heather (right), who still lives in their five-storey home near the Royal Albert Hall, though on a separate floor. Mother-of-two Heather, 40, bought the runaround, which has 128,000 miles on the clock, for around £6,000 last year from musician Tallulah Rendall.
‘I was quite surprised she bought it, but she is American and apparently it reminded her of her mid-American roots,’ says Tallulah, daughter of social fixer Liz Brewer. ‘Heather loved the idea of travelling the open road with her kids. The van has a massive bed which sleeps three, plus another bed and a kitchen.’
All the comforts of home then, though I’d hold off on that road trip to Iceland.
Plummy-toned Old Etonian actor Damian Lewis didn’t seem to care who could hear as he regaled his wife, actress Helen McCrory, and their children Manon and Gulliver on the top deck of a No. 14 bus travelling down Piccadilly.
‘His theatrical projection drowned out the destination announcements,’ says a fellow passenger. ‘I assumed at first it had to be someone on their mobile. I was six rows away yet I could hear his conversation crystal clearly.’
The Band of Brothers star was recalling bumping into the National Theatre actor Paul Freeman. Says my exasperated traveller: ‘Lewis suddenly declaimed: “He was Claudius to my Hamlet.”’ Fancy…
P.S. Ten years ago it was Prince Andrew who replaced his cousin, the unassuming Duke of Kent, as Britain’s trade envoy — a post he held for years, even brushing up on his German to help oil the wheels.
Clearly there are no hard feelings, for I hear the Duke, now 75, suggested Andrew might take another of his roles, Grand Master of the Masons. ‘He felt the Lodge should have a royal master and the Prince would be a suitable replacement.’ Andrew declined. Well, a man’s got to have some standards.