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FREEBIE KING; The MP formerly known as Gorgeous is unveiled as Parly's biggest globe-trotter.

Byline: IAN SMITH

HE has been renamed the MP-formerly-known-as-Gorgeous (MPFG) because of his publicity-seeking stunts.

And now the Member for Glasgow Kelvin added the title of most globe-trotting politician in Westminster to his list of dubious achievements.

The Record has sworn to deny the oxygen of publicity to the spotlight-hungry MPFG and we refuse to mention his name.

But when the House of Commons register of members' interests was published yesterday, MPFG stood out so much it was impossible not record his latest achievement.

He registered a staggering 12 overseas trips in the past year.

His jet-setting even overshadowed former PM John Major - who was attacked for spending more time on the US lecture circuit than in the Commons - with 11 foreign trips.

MPFG's support for Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussien and his vehement opposition to United Nations sanctions against the murderous Iraqi regime are well known and he has built a controversial career out of his links with the country.

In 1994, he was famously filmed telling Saddam: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."

And in 1998, he was accused of using four-year-old Mariam Hamza as a publicity pawn when he brought her to Scotland for cancer treatment.

But the register displayed the full extent of his involvement with the pariah state.

He visited Iraqi capital Baghdad four times.

Most of his trips were funded through the Mariam Appeal fund - a charity appeal named after a young Iraqi girl struck by cancer.

The Appeal also funded trips to Hungarian capital Budapest and New York.

His other middle-eastern excursions were to Jordan as a guest of the Great British-Iraq Society and to the United Arab Emirates as a guest of their government.

He also spent two nights in America paid for by the Texas-based campaign against sanctions on Iraq.

And he was flown to Madrid and Gigon and put up for three nights by the Spanish campaign against sanctions on Iraq.

Astonishingly, MPFG also added to his collection of watches received as presents from middle- eastern leaders.

This year's register lists a timepiece from the United Arab Emirates government - headed by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed al-Nahyan - the fourth they've given him since 1997.

MPFG also puts his fellow Scottish MPs in the shade with his earnings outside Parliament.

For a weekly column in a little-read Scottish edition of a London-based Sunday newspaper, MPFG receives an astonishing pounds 60,001-pounds 65,000.

He also writes regularly for Arabic daily newspaper, Al Watan.

Among the other Scottish MPs' entries in the register, little compares to MPFG's activities.

Perhaps the most unlikely declarations came from Scots Secretary Helen Liddell and Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace, both of whom went to last year's Brit Awards.

Neither MP is known as a pop guru but they went with their daughters as guests of the British Phonographic Institute.

The rest of the Scottish register reads like a list of sporting interests.

Celtic fan and Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid saw the Hoops play Bordeaux in the EUFA Cup courtesy of Scottish Power.

Dundee West MP Ernie Ross lists a complimentary invitation to all Dundee United's home games, while Glasgow Rutherglen MP Tommy McAvoy watched Rangers beat Aberdeen in last year's CIS League Cup Final as a guest of the Co-operative Insurance Society.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and former SNP leader Alex Salmond declare their love of horse racing - Salmond has a complimentary membership of Hamilton Racecourse and Cook enjoys "occasional hospitality at a number of race courses".
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 28, 2001
Words:583
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