Mandrake discusses the deliberate disappearance of the former Prime Minister as the public debate around Brexit sours.
Anxious about his safety as public anger about Brexit grows, David Cameron – who decided to hold the EU referendum – has more or less gone into hiding.
‘He sees this as a difficult year and has battened down the hatches,’ a close associate of the former prime minister admits to Mandrake. ‘He’s put back the publication of his autobiography until next year as the last thing he wants to do right now is any promotional tours. He’s also seen to it that no contact addresses or telephone numbers for him are publicly available. His website has been under construction now for a very long time and is likely to remain so.’
Shortly after leaving Downing Street and quitting as an MP, Cameron, set up a private company called The Office of David Cameron Ltd and listed Laurence Mann, his former political secretary, as its director.
When I managed to track down Mann, he confirmed that Cameron was intentionally keeping a low profile. ‘He is really not making public interventions until his book is published, likely next year,’ he said.
Mann, who picked up a CBE during Cameron’s time in office, is the last of the old guard still to be in the bunker with him. He witnessed a new mortgage that the Camerons took out on their £3.5 million Notting Hill townhouse just days before the EU referendum. Earlier this year, he accompanied his boss on a controversial trip to Bahrain for a meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
Although there has been no discernible outbreak of sanity at the Daily Telegraph when it comes to Brexit, Mandrake hears that Nick Hugh – its new chief executive in succession to Murdoch MacLennan – is less rabidly wedded to the policy.
‘He is not just another pointy head from Yahoo,’ one of its toilers tells Mandrake. ‘He reads the Economist, has liberal political views and is well aware that the Telegraph has been haemorrhaging readers to the Times, which is, of course, a Remain-supporting newspaper.’
Although rumours that the newspaper might be about to change its editorial position on Brexit are wide of the mark – sadly, its sometime contributor Boris Johnson has the direct telephone number of its owner, Sir David Barclay, who adores him – I am told to expect ‘a kinder, gentler’ approach to the issue in the newspaper in the months ahead.
The quiet man
No names, no pack-drill, but the questions Mandrake publicly asked John Humphrys about how much money he makes each year writing for the pro-Brexit Daily Mail – and how many times he’s gone to watch rugby matches at Twickenham with its editor, Paul Dacre – has created quite a rumpus on the Today programme.
‘Let’s just say there have been discussions about it and attempts have been made to persuade John to talk to you,’ says my source. ‘John is stubborn, however. He has said he doesn’t see how it’s anyone’s business.’
When I wrote on Twitter ‘Retweet please if you no longer have confidence in John Humphrys to report impartially on Brexit on the Today programme,’ an astonishing 10,000 people did so – or ‘liked’ the Tweet – within a couple of days.
In the money
A number of prominent Brextremists – including Sir David Barclay, James Dyson and Lord Bamford – saw their personal fortunes going up in the latest Sunday Times Rich List.
Andrea Leadsom is scarcely in their league, but her property firm Bandal – which she attempted to distance herself from a few years ago after its controversial use of offshore banking – is doing very nicely, thank you.
New accounts reveal that the business, still 75% or more owned and controlled by husband Ben, has more than doubled its net worth.
As of August 2017, it has £3.5 million worth of properties – that’s £800,000 more than reported in its 2016 accounts. In 2015, the year after Leadsom quit, it held £1.6 million worth of property.
In 2005, 24% of the shares in the company were transferred to two trusts set up for the benefit of the couple’s children, as a way of avoiding inheritance tax.