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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 29 May 2009
Karen Buck MP Karen Buck MP
Lilywhite manifesto of MP with no ‘additional’ claims

DOES Diary detect a hint of smugness from Queen’s Park stranger Karen Buck MP?
While the country bares its teeth at even the mention of the word expenses, MPs in central London constituencies, while not immune from the toxic atmosphere, have largely been spared the public inquisition because of their lack of a second home.
Ms Buck, Labour MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington Northwas out of the blocks very quickly, opening up her lilywhite book of receipts to the West End Extra last week.
This “nothing-to-hide” message we’re sure was done for the best of intentions, but Diary can’t help but wonder whether there might be a motivation to trample on some of her scofflaw peers? This week Ms Buck sent out a letter to her constituents baring all. Not in the Hello! magazine sense, but rather a clean hands-up-in-the-air gesture. She wrote: “As far as my personal circumstances are concerned I would like you to know that: As a central London MP who has lived in the constituency I represent for the last 25 years I do not receive anything under the so-called ‘additional costs allowance’, which covers mortgage interest or rent, utility bills, council tax or furnishings. My only travel claim is for public transport to allow to me to travel back and forth from the constituency to Westminster. I make no claims for food, taxis, or for entertaining guests at Parliament or elsewhere. 
“The only direct claim I make is for my mobile phone bills (but not my home phone, although this is used extensively for work). Lastly, the allowances I have drawn on – incidental expenses and communications – have been spent solely on employing staff; paying their National Insurance contributions, office rent/rates and maintenance, phone bills, printing and distribution costs (such as for my annual report), and sundry items such as printer cartridges, paper, and some out-of-pocket expenses incurred by interns and volunteers.”
Karen, we never doubted you.

Shirley’s school is putting on the high society style

IF you thought finishing school went out of fashion with the arrival of feminism, think again.
Tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of Marylebone is High Society Secrets, a sort of hothouse for those people who thought grace was something vaguely religious that didn’t apply to them.
It’s not quite university for Tatler readers or how not to be a Hyacinth Bucket (although they come into it), rather lessons in that most slippery of concepts: poise. “How to command presence, get noticed and avoid irritating habits” is how the class is billed, and at £175 per hour, or £2,000 for a week, becoming part of the high table doesn’t come cheap.
Set up by the almost too impressively named Shirley Schoonmaker (pictured) the school has become a global phenomenon, with sister schools in cities with the most-hard-to-crack social scenes, New York, Shanghai and Beijing. So next time you think its enough to pass the pretzels and tell your savoury snacks George Bush anecdote, remember that you could be doing so much better – a lion among monkies.
Visit www.highsociety secrets.com 

Pick of the family: Nice to meet you!

WINSTON Churchill had a lot of admirers but it’s doubtful whether he ever had anyone to pick his nose for him.
This intrepid explorer happens to be his great great grandson and son of the new Lord Mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, who took some time out from the bustle of the West End’s car-free day on Saturday to get to know his family tree – with a visit to the Bond Street sculpture of Churchill and Roosevelt.
And if breeding is anything to go by, he’s got a big future ahead of him. Mr Sandys was crowned the youngest-ever Lord Mayor in history at the age of 35 earlier this month.

No ordinary Joe Stalin

HE’S known as Stalin, but put that to one side when you consider the case of Joseph Stalin Bermudez.
The picket lines to surround the School of Oriental and African Studies in Bloomsbury this week were all for Bermudez, who works in the post room.
The story goes back a few months to when Bermudez, union chairman, agitated for better pay and was then sacked for alleged misconduct
The fact that SOAS cleaners now receive the London living wage minimum of £7.60 per hour – rather than the measly £5.35 per hour they were paid before – is largely down to Bermudez, an Ecuadorian.
Sandy Nicoll, union branch secretary, insists the disciplinary process in Bermudez’s case has been “unfair and fundamentally flawed”.
They and the SOAS students’ union are demanding that Stalin, as he is known to colleagues, is reinstated.
The university now faces an embarrassing climbdown or a summer of demonstrations.
Watch this space.

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