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Boris and Carrie live the Gatsbyesque life

The latest scandals and gossip from Westminster and Fleet Street

Boris Johnson with wife Carrie. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Of Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “They were careless people – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” 

Since they reluctantly moved out of Downing Street and Chequers, Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie have only allowed the public occasional glimpses into their own Gatsbyesque lifestyle. The former prime minister himself never posts holiday snaps on his social media – on Twitter especially he prefers to talk about the “cost of living crisis” or constituency concerns in Uxbridge – but his wife has the occasional unguarded moment. 

Last week she took a picture from a yacht she was aboard off an unidentified sun-kissed land and posted it on Instagram. Lady Carole Bamford – the wife of the JCB heir who provides luxurious free accommodation for the Johnsons in the UK – immediately commented “so happy you are having fun.” 

The image and accompanying comments were, however, hastily deleted – presumably at her husband’s insistence as he would have been acutely aware of how they would have jarred with his attempts to empathise with his constituents during the economic downturn.

As hard as the former prime minister tries to keep his jet-setting lifestyle under wraps, his entry in the register of MPs’ interests – covering the period between when he left office last September to early March – shows that he has managed to breeze through the VIP Windsor Suite at Heathrow, invariably with his wife, an astonishing 20 times, plus availing themselves of the VIP Sussex Suite at Gatwick on three occasions. They managed to chomp and quaff their way through more than £40,000 worth of pre- and post-flight hospitality in these exclusive lounges, well apart from the great unwashed.

It only became clear the Johnsons had been holidaying in the Caribbean last October when the former prime minister briefly left his place on his sun lounger beside his wife and their children to jet back to London to make an abortive comeback attempt after the fall of Liz Truss. 

Since then there have been sightings of the Johnsons carousing in the Dominican Republic, Slovenia and Greece, always staying at the most expensive hotels. There have been innumerable other less public holidays behind the high perimeter fences of their rich friends’ private retreats around the world.

If Rupert Murdoch is short of doting dining companions after the breakdown of his relationship with the evangelical Ann Lesley Smith, there’s always Rishi Sunak. The PM has just disclosed that Murdoch was the only individual who wined and dined him during his first three months in office. 

The PM and the nonagenarian broke bread together at Murdoch’s expense a few days before Christmas, but it was hardly a very intimate encounter. Giving some credence to a story in Vanity Fair about Murdoch’s increasing frailty, he chose to bring with him a large praetorian guard of senior UK executives who might be said to double up as carers – Robert Thompson, Rebekah Brooks, Tony Gallagher, Emma Tucker and Victoria Newton. 

Murdoch should hopefully have remembered who Sunak was: I disclosed how in 2020 he managed to attend 23 meetings with the then-chancellor, compared to just 16 with the then-prime minister Boris Johnson. 

Hugh Grant was quite right when he said in a television interview recently that it’s not the electorate who get to decide what happens in this country and who gets to lead it, but Murdoch and his fellow media tycoons. 

After parting company with the excellent columnist David Aaronovitch, presumably because he was thought to be a subversive Leftie with Remainer instincts, the Times has hired as his replacement Juliet Samuel from the Daily Telegraph

Unsurprisingly, her columns, which began in mid-March, express the playbook of her old right wing home. Times readers don’t care for her and are making their views plain enough in the title’s online comment section. 

They range from “Another Daily Telegraph retread” to “puerile tosh”, and from “this swing by the Times downwards and rightwards is getting ridiculous” to “dull, dull, dull and appallingly badly written”. 

The Times began its lurch rightward with the removal of columnist Philip Collins in 2020. This week he retweeted one of the paper’s articles, headed “Undecided millions lean towards Rishi Sunak, poll shows”, together with the comment: “I mean, I know they publish some rubbish but this is a work of art, even for them.”

Lord Rothermere looks as if he can now rest easy in the knowledge that he will, for the foreseeable future, be the only peer in residence at Northcliffe House, the Daily Mail’s Kensington HQ. 

I am told the only forlorn hope his executive Paul Dacre has of yet acquiring the honour – after his name was struck off Boris Johnson’s resignation dishonours list – would be if the whole process were to be begun again, with a new recommendation, ideally from someone other than Johnson, being made to the honours committee and it being considered afresh. However, the Lords, in common with all the best London clubs, tend to take a dim view of candidates who come round a second time after being blackballed.

Meanwhile, any hopes that the 74-year-old Dacre might have of retiring to his splendid estate on the British Virgin Islands look as if they could well be put back by the phone-hacking and criminality case that Elton John, Doreen Lawrence and others are bringing against the newspaper group. Mr Justice Nicklin is still deciding whether to allow the cases to proceed. 

“Whether they like it or not, Rothermere and Dacre are going to be shackled together until all of this is over,” whispers my man in the newsroom. “There’s a feeling of Waiting for Godot around here – nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.”

There was an almighty stink when it emerged Liz Truss was employing Mark Fullbrook as her chief of staff through his lobbying outfit, Fullbrook Strategies. Rishi Sunak, who is now being advised by Isaac Levido on strategy ahead of the next general election and is seen as his single most influential adviser, has learned from his predecessor’s mistake and pays the Australian through party funds. 

Still, Levido, who founded a lobbying outfit called Fleetwood Strategy after he left Downing Street in July 2020, is still making a fortune from his company. Latest earnings, reported for the 12 months ending in January 2023, amounted to £1.7m, £500,000 up on 2022 and almost £1.5m up on 2021 – when Fleetwood netted £1.2m and £240,000, respectively. Levido’s clients are not disclosed in its new annual report or on the company’s website. 

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