The owners of the Daily Telegraph are said to be living in a castle on the island of Brecqhou to avoid the coronavirus, TIM WALKER reports.
When Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, appealed to hotel owners in the capital to make rooms available for rough sleepers during the coronavirus epidemic, there was no response from the Ritz. Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, at the time the hotel’s owners, are believed to have retreated – in the style of Prince Prospero in Edgar Alan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death – to their castle on the island of Brecqhou.
In the days when we were still speaking, Sir David, who was big on apocalyptic prophecies, had foretold the day would come when he would have to take refuge from the outside world. He told me that when he had seen the architect Quinlan Terry’s original designs for his castle, he’d ordered that he should double the thickness of the castle’s granite walls to 3ft. So far the only invader that the naff mock-Gothic castle has had to repel has been journalist John Sweeney, who, in 2012, journeyed to the island in a little boat in a vain attempt to interview the Daily Telegraph proprietors for a Panorama programme.
Unhappily, the 85-year-old twins, are now enjoined in a legal fight involving alleged bugging, but their castle is of course big enough for them not to have to even catch sight of each other too often. Within its battlements are two swimming pools, a well-equipped and staffed medical centre, and, if the worst comes to the worst, a chapel – blessed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor – with a crypt beneath which the brothers had originally intended to be interred, side by side.
Incidentally, five years ago the Barclays gave up on their hopes to take over InterContinental Hotels Group, when they sold their 10% stake for £330 million. InterContinental’s bosses have commendably answered Khan’s call and are working with the mayor’s office to provide rooms for homeless people at a discounted rate for the next 12 weeks. Reports this week suggested the Barclay family had sold the Ritz to an unnamed Qatari investor.
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Few if any individuals could have been better prepared for self-isolation than David Cameron. Weary of being trophy-hunted by news crews who’d demand to know if he had ‘any regrets’ about Brexit, the former PM has made it a rule for some time now to stay indoors at his various homes in London, the Cotswolds and Cornwall. He has few visitors – sadly old friends like Michael Gove and Sarah Vine now give him a wide berth – and he spends most of his time reading and engaging in the odd Zoom meeting in connection with his various business interests around the world.
I’m told he’s elected to sit out coronavirus in his Cotswolds home, which means his small army of protection officers have had to relocate there, too. Towards the end of his life, James Callaghan confided in me that he’d dispensed with the officers who guarded him at his Sussex farm ‘to save the taxpayer a few bob’. I can’t ever see the multi-millionaire Cameron ever taking that option.
The fact Liam Fox occasionally lunches with Rupert Murdoch seems not to have impinged upon the consciousness of the Sunday Times letters editor. ‘The whole tenor of the piece you published by Fox last week is that he knew a pandemic was coming,’ one correspondent wrote over the weekend. ‘Then why did he, as a senior member of the cabinet, not shout from the rooftops until there was a master plan in place, because clearly there never was?’
Mandrake has already documented how much Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis, among others, have billed the taxpayer for their innumerable overseas jaunts, but, sadly for them, that’s all been brought to an abrupt halt by coronavirus.
Still, transparency data released last week shows that Priti Patel, the home secretary, managed to get in one last trip before lockdown was imposed. Her trip to Washington in October to sign a ‘landmark data-sharing agreement with her US counterpart’ was made all the more enjoyable by British Airways giving Patel a flight upgrade, presumably to first. Total cost was a relatively modest £8,384.