Mandrake reveals when Kamal Ahmed said ‘all hail, Sir Philip Green,’ Liam Fox combines business with pleasure and Jane Fonda asks why Corbyn is not opposing Brexit.
Few, if any, journalists know Sir Philip Green better than Kamal Ahmed, but the BBC’s economics editor has been curiously silent about the controversial tycoon who’s been so much in the news lately.
‘Kamal was once Green’s cheerleader-in-chief and that’s a bit awkward as he’s about to take over as our editorial director,’ one corporation toiler tells Mandrake. ‘It certainly sits uneasily with the lectures he’s been giving us all about the need for impartiality.’
Ahmed, grew close to Green during his period working as business editor of the Sunday Telegraph, when he ran pieces with what now seem embarrassing headlines such as ‘All hail, Sir Philip’ and pantingly talked about him as ‘the leading retailer of his generation’.
The Telegraph group – now enjoined in battle with Green after he injuncted them in a bid to stop the papers publishing details of accusations of sexual harassment and racial abuse – had previously been well-disposed towards him.
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay – the papers’ owners – had backed Green in his £550million buyout of the Sears retail chain in 1999. Certainly nothing hostile about Green ever appeared in their papers in the old days. Will Lewis – a close friend of Green – was appointed as the Daily Telegraph’s editor in 2006.
Flying doctor Having already racked up enough air miles to fly to the moon and back, it is good to see that Dr Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is now able to fit his business travel around his private travel.
New transparency disclosures reveal that Fox fitted in ‘personal travel after the trip’ following a one-day £3,043 official jaunt to Bahrain for a meeting with key ministerial counterparts. The Abu Dhabi gig was part of an £18,845 travel spree in the April to June quarter for Fox.
During these three months he spent two days in Bangkok at £7,079, took in Vancouver, Seattle and LA – on a £6,121 six-day visit, went to Washington for two days at £1,105 – plus a £775 trip to Oslo and a £720 visit to Geneva, each lasting two days. On the plus side, all Fox’s flights were scheduled – regarded as infra dig by a lot of colleagues who like to avail themselves of the Royal Squadron – though their class is not disclosed.
Icy blast Lords Lawson and Deben were once colleagues in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, but their relationship has since chilled almost as dramatically as that of the climate.
Lawson is chairman of the little-known Global Warming Policy Foundation – a climate change-denying outfit funded by the billionaire hedge-fund manager Sir Michael Hintze, who was also a backer of Vote Leave – and it has recently been trumpeting how Deben had been ‘guilty of misleading the public on wind farms’ on the Today programme.
It’s true the BBC partially accepted their complaint against Deben, but they didn’t agree that he had been inaccurate when he had said that onshore wind was the cheapest form of electricity generation.
Lawson is touchy about Today as the show had to apologise for an interview it did with him in which it accepted it had breached its own editorial guidelines. Lawson was allowed to make the preposterous claim that global temperatures have not risen in the past decade. The unflappable Deben tells me he sees being named and shamed by Lawson’s outfit as ‘a mark of honour’.
Star turn There was one thing about Brexit that Jane Fonda, couldn’t get her head around when I met her at the BFI Southbank. ‘Why is your opposition party not opposing it?’ she asked, not unreasonably.
I couldn’t answer and nor could anyone else in the room, which may well explain why Baroness Chakrabarti – the Jeremy Corbyn acolyte and shadow attorney general – intervened and told the great actress that she needed to ‘mingle’ more.
Undeterred, Fonda added: ‘Quite frankly, I’m concerned about what lies behind this sudden move to the right both here and in my country. You need to investigate the role of Russia as fully as we are.’
I might add I now see myself as a fully-paid-up Fonda groupie after seeing her so brilliantly interviewed earlier by Samira Ahmed: the woman is as impressive off-camera as she is on.