In this week’s diary column, Lib Dems distance themselves from comedy stalwart and Tim Shipman considers a new Conservative ‘dream team’.
Don’t mention the EU Referendum
After parting company with his third wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger and any discernibly funny scripts, John Cleese’s relationship with the Lib Dems appears to have petered out, too.
The 78-year-old Fawlty Towers star, who made some memorable election broadcasts for them and was once offered a peerage by Lord Ashdown during his period as leader, irked the Lib Dem high command by backing Leave in the EU Referendum and even admitted that he had some sympathies with UKIP.
‘The relationship has run its course,’ sighs my man at Lib Dem headquarters. ‘We’d rather remember John as he was.’
Cleese’s spokesman says he can’t comment on his client’s current political affiliations and adds he won’t be minded to comment until he returns from holiday in March.
During the last election, Cleese said he had no intention of voting in his Kensington constituency because, under the present system, he considered his vote to be ‘utterly worthless’. In the event, the supposedly safe Tory seat fell to Labour.
‘Brexit is not enough,’ declared Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph. ‘We have to take back control of the rule of law.’
Mandrake dreads to think what Brexit law would look like: imprisonment, if not execution, for all ‘saboteurs’; supreme power, if not deification, for Jacob Rees-Mogg; The New European banned…
Loopy old Moore is, if anything, even more strident on the subject of climate change, possibly because he’s a patron of Lord Lawson’s much-reviled Global Warming Policy Foundation.
‘Britain can’t thrive without cheap energy,’ Moore spluttered recently. ‘We need a bonfire of green regulations.’
Tom Burke, chairman of the rather more sensible climate change think tank E3G, tells me Bremtremists are, by necessity, climate change deniers because the problem has to be dealt with internationally, rather than merely nationally.
He has some depressing news for Moore: Margaret Thatcher, the columnist’s great heroine, accepted the reality of climate change. Indeed, she even invited Burke, as a senior government adviser, to a dinner at No 10. ‘The whisky in her glass was very dark,’ Burke recalls, admiringly.
Sarah Tebbit has lately joined Twitter, the social networking site. She describes herself as a ‘liberal centrist’, who considers Brexit to be ‘a cock-up of historic proportions’.
Clearly a smart lady, but Mandrake wonders if she is, by any chance, related to the former Tory cabinet minister Lord Tebbit. Not so long ago, the old bruiser admonished fellow peers, who were trying to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in the UK, for ‘thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners’.
Sarah tells me: ‘Only via my husband, who is his nephew. Hardly anyone asks, actually. Maybe only once a year. It tends to be only those of a certain age and/or who would deem it to be a good thing.’ Obviously not the case so far as Mandrake is concerned, but touché!
Brought to book
In what addled mind could Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg – if they took over as PM, Deputy PM and Chancellor – amount to a ‘dream team’? Tim Shipman’s, apparently, or at least the voices he’s hearing.
Over the weekend, the political editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times even preposterously quoted Johnson as saying that ‘the cavalry is coming’ to compel Theresa May to get Britain out of the customs union.
Shipman ought to declare an interest for so obligingly putting out all of this shameless Johnson propaganda on his paper’s front page: he’s currently collaborating with the profoundly unpopular politician on what promises to be a lucrative book. Mandrake trusts the pair will have the decency to dedicate it to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.