Our diary reveals how the man tipped to be PM was banned from an entire floor of the European Commission building after lewd behaviour with a photocopier, what Jacob Rees-Mogg was paid for his ‘mind-bogglingly banal’ book, and Michael Gove’s dubious background as an ‘environmentalist.’
Although it’s always been in Boris Johnson’s financial interests to be hostile to the European Union – the Brextremist Barclay brothers still pay him £275,000-a-year to write his vitriol for the Daily Telegraph – there may also be a personal element to it.
Jörg Tittel, a writer and director based in London, tells me how his late father, Horst-Jürgen Tittel, a senior advisor to Jacques Delors during his years as president of the European Commission, had to ban Johnson from an entire floor of the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European parliament in Brussels.
“Johnson’s offence was to have broken a photocopier in my father’s office after apparently attempting to use it to take a copy of his buttocks,” says Tittel. “I sometimes wonder if it was Johnson’s outrage over this that set him off on the road to Brexit.”
Johnson worked as the Telegraph’s Brussels’ correspondent between 1989 and 1994 when he was seen to be one of the fiercest critics of Delors and – in the words of Chris Patten – “one of the greatest exponents of fake journalism”.
Tittel adds that in the early years when his father had come home and uttered the words “dieser scheiss Johnson,” it was in reference to an MEP called Stanley Johnson, the father of the man now tipped to be PM. “According to my dad, Stanley was a pain-in-the-arse contrarian, always preferring to block a good initiative just so he could indulge in the sound of his own voice,” says Tittel.
He has made clear where he stands on Brexit in NYET!, a short film starring Olivia Williams, which he co-directed with his British wife Alex Helfrecht. It can be viewed for free at www.nyet.film
In common with other book reviewers, Dominic Sandbrook, the historian, didn’t hold back when he reviewed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s book, The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain, when it came out last month. “So bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly banal that if it had been written by anybody else it would never have been published,” Sandbrook harrumphed.
To add injury to insult for Rees-Mogg’s publishers Random House, they had to pay him for the dubious privilege of publishing the awful book. In the latest Register of Members’ Interests, Rees-Mogg discloses that he trousered £12,500 from Random House for what he estimates to have been 300 hours’ work. He received a further £10,000 from them on publication.
When Seumas Milne finally quit the Guardian two years ago after a long period on unpaid leave working as Jeremy Corbyn’s communications chief, Katharine Viner, the newspaper’s editor, wished him well and expressed the hope that he would one day write once more for the paper.
Mandrake hears that isn’t necessarily the unanimous view of the staff. “I used to sit near Milne and he had a very loud, booming voice that was a bit much first thing in the morning,” one staffer tells me. “One morning virtually the entire office had to listen to him regaling a friend on the telephone with his account of meeting someone he didn’t obviously feel was very intelligent. “I mean to say he didn’t even know that someone who was educated at Winchester is called a Wykehamist,” Seumas said at the top of his voice. Seumas, as we all now know only too well, is himself a Wykehamist.”
Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove gladly posed for pictures with the climate change activist Greta Thunberg during her recent visit to London, but the environment secretary’s record on the environment is to say the least murky.
For all his recent pontifications on the subject, the DeSmogUK website recalls how he caused dismay when, as education secretary, he announced plans to exclude climate change from the geography national curriculum. A year later, Gove said he had “read with concern” a report by Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which accused “activist” teachers of trying to turn pupils into “foot soldiers of the green movement”.
As Sir Ed Davey, the former energy secretary, observed, Gove simply can’t help “playing to the Tory climate-sceptic audience”.