Aarati of the NTI newsroom can't decide which of Grant Shapps' facial features makes him look most like an eleven year old schoolboy. Is it the gaps between his teeth, or the hair curl falling mischievously on an ever-expanding forehead? Or could it simply be his grasp of travel and employment law?
This month Sonny Shapps fell to 26th 'most popular cabinet member', as volted by 'Conservative Home' with a 17.5 per cent approval rating (thank heavens for Priti Patel, Boris Johnson and Norwich City propping him up at the bottom of the table). Like many schoolboys, Sonny is not sure of his GCSE status. His now deleted Wikipedia entry said that he “obtained four O-levels including an A in CDT ('Can't Do Transport?', whereas he actually obtained five, but CCHQ won’t disclose the grades he got.
Whatever his lack of qualification, this week he will be using his best joined-up writing to tell much-maligned P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite that the Government plans (a little late in the day) to close a legal loophole which allows ferry operators using UK ports, but registered overseas, to pay less than the minimum wage. After his nap, Sonny is due to tell Mr Hebblethwaite that legislation is to be placed before Parliament that shamefully allows ferry companies to pay workers an average of £5.50 per hour (the legal rate is due to be increased to £9.50 per hour next month). He is also going to order P&O to re-hire the 800 employees it sacked in depressing circumstances last week.
Apparently, before outlining the changes to the Commons this week, Sonny Shapps is going to say that he expects ferry staff to be treated "with dignity and respect". What about last year and the year before that and the year before that? Should staff have been treated with dignity and respect then, too, Mr Shapps?
Those P&O staff who were recently not treated with dignity and respect should be in for a windfall protective award payment of 90 days pay on top of redundancy awards if they were not given the legally required notice for redundancy. Then all eyes will be on P&O who made the claim that it would not be able to operate as a viable business without making the changes it did last week. Other ferry lines, such as Stena and DFDS, manage to do so. Is it just P&O we should be avoiding on our travels to the continent if we have a shred of decency?