ANNA MIKHAILOVA: Ministry of Sound peer tiptoes out of the Lords
Lord of the Dance, James Palumbo, is taking a break from political activities as a life peer to concentrate on his leisure business interests, I can reveal.
The founder of the Ministry of Sound nightclub entered the Lords in 2013 after making substantial contributions to another type of party – the Lib Dems, especially in Southwark, the club’s base for 30 years.
Palumbo’s papa was also made a peer – but after donating to the Tories. Alas, father and son are estranged following a lengthy legal battle that Eton and Oxford-educated Palumbo junior brought against his property developer dad over his trust fund.
The 58-year-old’s leave of absence from the Lords is temporary, he tells me via overly aggressive legal letters.
Lord of the Dance, James Palumbo, is taking a break from political activities as a life peer to concentrate on his leisure business interests, I can reveal
But judging by his record in the Upper Chamber, most people are unlikely to notice he’s gone.
Palumbo last spoke in a debate in December 2017, last voted 41 months ago and has never asked a written question or served on a committee, though he insists he’s been an active member. What, I wonder, are the ‘overly time-consuming’ Covid-affected business interests that stop Lord Palumbo of Southwark carrying out his far-from-onerous work as a peer?
Well, they seem to be complex, offshore and opaque, but he declines to give any clue about what he’ll be focusing on. We know, from when he sued his live-in DJ manager in 1998, that Palumbo owned the Ministry of Sound through a trust called Nimbus.
In the four years to 2020 he declared ‘no registrable interests’, before citing a controlling stake in two dormant and now dissolved companies. Palumbo, however, did not declare his brief directorship of Submin Holdings Limited, which owns the Ministry and Nimbus, and, is in turn controlled by another Jersey trust. He says he had no knowledge of the directorship.
Palumbo joins 34 other peers voluntarily on a leave of absence. Among them is banker Baroness Shriti Vadera, who was ennobled by Labour in 2007 and hasn’t been seen in the Lords since 2011
With calls to reduce the number of lords – there are more than 800 – constantly being rejected, it is no surprise that peers are allowed an open-ended ‘leave of absence’ while retaining their titles, use of Lords’ stationery and dining facilities for up to five guests. So it’s anyone’s guess how long the Lord of the Dance will be spending with his bank balance, and he is no longer bound by transparency rules for declaring which businessmen he’s in bed with.
Palumbo joins 34 other peers voluntarily on a leave of absence. Among them is banker Baroness Shriti Vadera, who was ennobled by Labour in 2007 and hasn’t been seen in the Lords since 2011. Baroness Scotland, another Labour appointee, has been absent for five years.
Tory Lords Hague and Sainsbury have taken leave during the pandemic. Then there’s Greg Barker, the Tory who absented himself to trouser £6 million a year from a Russian energy giant linked to Putin’s friend Oleg Deripaska.
Isn’t it time to end this farce that allows peers to cling to their privileges while too busy for parliamentary work?
Lord Sugar has been too busy to vote even once in the House of Lords since 2017, but found time, at 3.40am, to berate me for reporting his paltry parliamentary record in this column. Saying that being ennobled by Gordon Brown was ‘one of the biggest achievements in my lifetime’, he emailed to threaten to reveal to his ‘5m followers’ on Twitter that I was a ‘vindictive trouble-making non-achieving loser’, adding: ‘My friends call me “Alan”, you can call me “Lord Sugar”.’ Bring it on Al.
A Labour source says Sir Keir Starmer’s conference speech will be ‘very Phil Collins’. No, not the Eighties chart-topper but Tony Blair’s former speechwriter. I still hope Sir Keir struts on stage to ‘I can feel it coming in the air tonight’. Oh Lord.