Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

Boris continues to be bankrolled

The former prime minister may be making millions now he’s left office, but he still can’t resist a freebie holiday

Boris Johnson gestures during his media briefing on the Covid-19 Photo: Hollie Adams/Pool/AFP via Getty Images.

Boris Johnson may no longer sit at the prime minister’s desk, but his wealthy chums would still appear to think he’s worth bankrolling. Mandrake hears that Sam Blyth, the Canadian business tycoon who offered to guarantee an £800,000 loan facility for him when he was still in No 10, has once again put him, his wife Carrie and some of his more recent children up at his Dominican Republic estate.

“Boris may be making millions now he’s left office, but he still can’t resist a freebie holiday,” one of the disgraced former prime minister’s associates tells me. “Sam is a distant cousin of his but I would say theirs always been a practical rather than a close relationship so I wonder what he’s hoping to get back in return for all this creeping.”

Still, Blyth may well have felt he owes Johnson one. Shortly after he proposed to guarantee his loan facility in a scandal that precipitated the resignation of the BBC chair Richard Sharp, he appeared on a confidential list of four candidates recommended by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to run the British Council, a £250,000-a-year gig heading up the body responsible for cultural and educational programmes outside the country.

The property where the Johnsons stayed would normally be let out by Blyth to guests at £4,000 a night. It is located within Casa de Campo, a private gated community which has been a haunt of the likes of Rihanna, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, in addition to George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

Mandrake wonders to what extent Chris Evans, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, has his journalists behind him in his trenchant opposition to the United Arab Emirates-backed RedBird IMI’s bid for the paper.

“We’re under orders to keep trying to stand up stories rubbishing the bid and the UAE in general, but a lot of us are growing reluctant,” one senior staffer on the paper tells me. “RedBird IMI may not be ideal, but, if it’s not going to be them, it’ll be Paul Marshall, the owner of GB News that has been putting out Putin’s propaganda for him, or Lord Rothermere, who’ll almost certainly make a lot of us redundant as he tries to find synergies with his Mail titles.”

The government is now investigating the RedBird IMI bid, but my informant adds that the whole idea of so many right wing Tories making a fuss about an overseas takeover of the paper was absurd. “Look at Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-American, who has so flagrantly used his titles to damage the monarchy, a key part of the British constitution, and catastrophically impose Brexit on us all.”

RedBird IMI’s deep pockets obviously make them attractive to a lot of journalists on the Telegraph and that’s been demonstrated by their recent £1.15bn acquisition of All3Media, the TV company behind The Traitors.

There is dismay in the arts world at the way Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council for the past seven years, has caved in to pressure from Tory ministers. He initially buckled to Nadine Dorries when she was culture secretary by accepting large cuts and agreeing to fund less arts in London, including forcing English National Opera from the capital.  Now he’s given in, too, to Lucy Frazer, the latest culture secretary, who is calling for a full review of the Arts Council itself, and from Kemi Badenoch, the anti-woke business secretary, who has pathetically taken umbrage at a Northern Irish rapper whose politics she disagrees with. 

In response, the Arts Council is rewriting its “Relationships Framework,” with Serota warning the hundreds of organisations it funds against making “overtly political or activist statements which might cause reputational risk”.  The 75-year-old Arts Council was founded and run for decades on the principle of an “arms-length relationship” with the government, and of course art – in particular theatre – should by its very nature not be afraid to challenge the establishment. The poet Anthony Anaxagorou has wearily responded: “We better just make art which is as interesting as a sack of potatoes.”

With Boris Johnson affecting outrage at Putin’s murder of Alexei Navalny, it’s not really done in Tory circles to mention their former leader’s lack of interest in the Russia Report, the roubles the party accepted on his watch, the KGB man’s son he placed in the Lords or his steadfast support of Donald Trump, who has been actively encouraging Russia to invade still more countries. 

Least said, soonest mended, too, about Johnson’s wife Carrie who chose not to respond to my call to her on X to condemn Navalny’s murder. She was photographed in 2012 at a meeting of a pro-Kremlin front group called the Conservative Friends of Russia, which was later reborn as the Westminster Russia Forum.

After Mandrake highlighted Lord Ian Austin’s heckling of a fellow peer during a solemn debate on Gaza – and his subsequent Islamophobic comments on social media – the Midland Heart housing association has suspended the former Labour MP who was ennobled by Boris Johnson as their chair.

I can disclose that more than 100 complaints about Austin’s conduct have also been received by Akbar Khan, the Lords commissioner for standards, but he has told those who have got in touch that he is not allowed to take a view of Austin’s views or his non-parliamentary activities.  One Tory peer tells me: “The Upper House was once a place where people respectfully heard each other out and debated on the basis of intellect, but all that’s changed with the influx of yobs like this since the Johnson days. Austin, I need hardly add, was inflicted upon us by Johnson.”

The writer and campaigner Andrew Feinstein – who describes himself as “a proud Leftie Jew” – has described Austin as “a contemptible little man” who “weaponises antisemitism to try to eradicate progressive politics.” Feinstein had been appalled by Austin’s sarcastic comments on X about the writer Michael Rosen. Michael Gove has, needless to say, lately leapt to Austin’s defence. 

Lord Lamont, the former chancellor, is quitting as Rishi Sunak’s trade envoy to Iran. Lamont was appointed to the role by David – now Lord – Cameron in 2016 as part of a drive to boost UK exports to the region and served all the prime ministers that succeeded him.  Lamont, now 81, first involved himself with Iran when he advised Vahid Alaghband, the chair of Balli Group, a business that later figured in a fraud prosecution brought by the Serious Fraud Office in London. 

Of his life and career, Lamont would no doubt look back and say – as he did when he was asked in 1993 if he regretted claiming to see “the green shoots of recovery” as the economy worsened – “je ne regrette rien.” A year later he became a Brexit harbinger when he said: “ I cannot pinpoint a single concrete advantage that unambiguously comes to this country because of our membership of the European Union.”

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

See inside the SUNK edition

Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty

How the west betrayed Navalny

We could have helped him become Russia’s Mandela – but instead we preferred performative scolding and mindless culture wars

Image: TNE/Getty

The Tories are sleepwalking towards oblivion

No one in Westminster dares to say it – but the Tories are heading for an extinction-level event