Kevin Maguire – one of Westminster’s most amiable lefties, even if he is a Mackem – never normally misses a chance to take a potshot at the ranks of the Right. Over the years, the Countryside Alliance has been a regular target, with a stream of hunting puns flowing from his pen.
So it was no surprise to see him join the Andrew Mitchell fray yesterday:
But wait a second, that cardboard copper looks rather familiar. Whose stand at the Lib Dem conference could that be?
Perhaps Kevin’s not such a city boy after all?
You could be forgiven for having missed the news that the League Against Cruel Sports – aka the country’s leading mob of hunt saboteurs – have appointed a new Chief Executive. Like most people, my initial reaction was “who cares”, until the name of their new Chief Exec leaped out from the page: Joe Duckworth.
Mr Duckworth, better known to readers of Private Eye as “Vera” Duckworth, hasn’t always been a professional fox-hugger. The animal lovers should like him, though – until recently he was one of the most notorious fatcats in local government.
The LACS say he had “a long and distinguished career in local government” – and they’re right, if they mean it was distinguished by earning huge amounts of money and demonstratingremarkably little improvement for the people he was meant to be serving.
In 2006 and 2007 he was the Chief Executive of Isle of White council, cashing in a hefty £150,000 a year – almost twice the amount paid to his predecessor on the basis that he would turn the council round. According to sources quoted in the Telegraph at the time, his reign over the island was characterised by an “atmosphere of fear” due to his behaviour, and his departure was greeted with “a sigh of relief”.
And what did taxpayers get for their money? Nada. As one councillor said, “When he arrived we were a two-star council, and we are still a two-star council now he has gone.”.
After a failure like that, you’d assume he’d have disappeared into anonymity, but no. Vera’s next job was as Chief Executive of Newham – one of the UK’s poorest boroughs, where he raked in £280,000 in 2009-10 (according to the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Town Hall Rich List).
The obscenity of anyone – particularly someone with a dismal track record in their previous job – cashing in so heavily at the expense of some of the poorest residents of any Borough in the country is plain to see. As for his output in Newham, safe to say it was less than stellar.
And now he’s joined the League Against Cruel Sports. Two questions face them: first, how can a small outfit with only 3-4,000 members afford someone with Joe “Vera” Duckworth’s expensive tastes? Second, event if they can afford the pay packet, can they afford to have someone so ineffective at the helm?