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Artist formerly known as ‘Gorgeous’ hops aboard Brexit gravy train. But is Jezza sitting out tortuous journey en route to Number 10?

August 21, 2016

SUNDAY SOAPBOX .. . August 21, 2016

JEREMY CORBYN: Not enough trains

JEREMY CORBYN: Not enough trains

ONE was an austerity peddler while the other is often seen with a bike in tow and now sitting on the floor of a crowded rail carriage.

How the world has changed post-Brexit for former Chancellor George Osborne but less so for Labour’s under-fire but unruffled leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Osborne – the Government overseer of ‘tightening our belts’ for six years as well as the architect of ‘Project Fear’ in the run-up to the EU referendum – seemed to have lost everything when he nailed his colours to the wrong jockey in the In/Out Race of the Century on June 23.

The darling of Tory conference and rabbit-out-the-hat Budgets, ‘gorgeous’ George had once looked set fair to take on the PM cape when David Cameron exited sometime before the 2020 general election.

The Brexit vote stopped him in his tracks and the subsequent fallout saw high-profile runners and riders unseated before claiming more casulaties in the Number 10 Steeplechase – most notably Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

But Mr Osborne, I hear, is back in the saddle again – determined to make it ‘first past the post’ in the After-dinner Speaker Stakes.

He has been cleared to join the public speaker agency used by the likes of Tony Blair and George W. Bush to rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments formally signed off on Osborne joining the Washington Speakers Bureau this week.

Past speakers have included Iraq invasion-era PM Tony Blair, his successor Gordon Brown and high-profile Americans such as former President George W. Bush and ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Former Australian PM Tony Abbott is also on the agency’s books.

Fees are not officially disclosed but are rumoured to be as high as £230,000 for former heads of state or prime ministers.

Mr Osborne, relegated to the back benches by newly-installed PM Theresa May, is expected to work for the agency for two days a week and lecture on “the current political environment.”

The official nod was given on the grounds he would not take up the role for three months after leaving cabinet and “personally approve any engagement to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.”

While political leaders David Cameron and Nigel Farage stepped down in the wake of the Brexit vote, Jezza found himself forced to contest the leadership of the Labour Party just 12 months after securing a landslide victory.

He’s suffered a seismic vote of no confidence from the Parliamentary Labour Party; lost one High Court battle over membership; got a stab in the front from London Mayor Sadiq Khan who accused him of ” “failing to win the trust and respect of the British people”; and ends a rough-and-tumble week – on his backside.

The Labour veteran was filmed joining seatless commuters on the floor during a three-hour train ride to debate leadership challenger Owen Smith.

By contrast, Mr Corbyn’s rival has been previously exposed enjoying first class travel at taxpayer expense.

From his spot on the floor, where he chose to sit instead of upgrading to first class, Corbyn says: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody.

“The reality is there are not enough trains, we need more of them – and they’re also incredibly expensive.”

According to The Guardian, he later said: “Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

This isn’t the first time Corbyn has won public attention while enduring the reality of Britain’s transport network.

During the 2015 leadership campaign he was spotted looking tired on a London night bus after a day of campaigning, proving his ‘man of the people’ credentials.
Labour leadership challenger Smith has also been in the public eye for his public transport use, but not in a positive light.

In 2012, an investigation revealed 185 MPs – including Smith and a third of shadow cabinet ministers – were enjoying first class train travel at the taxpayer expense.

The Daily Telegraph investigation showed MPs, who are normally required to travel by standard class, were exploiting a loophole which allowed them to buy first class tickets in some circumstances.

It’s August 2016 – and a lot can happen with us four years away to the official date of the next general election.

The polls are even saying that new PM Mrs May is more popular with Labour voters than Mr Corbyn.

But the pollsters have got it badly wrongly recently and don’t discount Jezza, with his ‘man of the people’ credentials and a messianic following from the young of this country, picking himself up off the floor to walk, bike or use public transport to ride to electoral victory.

At least gravy trains don’t appear to be his mode of transport . . .

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