Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Too Cheeky by Half. (Observations: Tony Banks)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Too Cheeky by Half. (Observations: Tony Banks)

Article excerpt

When Tony Banks was sports minister (1997-99), he, with other MPs, was lobbied at Westminster by the Coalition of Football Supporters. One supporter said how difficult it had been for him to meet the cost of his journey from Manchester out of his low income. This won't do at all, said the minister. Here we are, he said, we MPs, all well paid: we could have a whip round and give them [pounds sterling]1,000 for travel expenses.

His colleagues nailed smiles to their faces and studied their shoes intently, wondering where they would be if the idea of paying lobbyists' expenses caught on. Their silence must have led the football supporters to suppose that the proposal had been agreed: they wrote several times asking for their [pounds sterling]1,000. They never got it, though.

Yes, good old Banksy, the cheeky chappie who now wants to be Labour's candidate for mayor of London -- the members' ballot papers are just going out -- and then to overthrow Ken Livingstone in next year's election. He always had a talent for populist gestures and for embarrassing people. When he was assistant general secretary of a broadcasting union (1976-83), he came, as the guest speaker, to a dinner at the National Union of Journalists conference. NUJ leaders were trying to defuse a dispute with their staff. With the NUJ general secretary, Harry Conroy, sitting beside him, Banksy launched into a tirade against union leaders who failed to treat their staff properly. As he sat down, he looked at Conroy's thunderous face and -- there's no other word for it -- smirked. …

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