Tim Walker’s diary focuses on Gina Miller being ‘outnumbered’ on Question Time, the woes of Leave.EU, Chuka Umunna on the idea of a black PM, and John Redwood and Frank Field plotting in a lift
Dimbleby starves Gina of airtime
The last Question Time before the summer break proved to be a lot more entertaining – and even-handed on the subject of Brexit – for the studio audience in Dartford in Kent than for the viewers at home.
‘The show I recorded was not the same as I the show I saw live,’ one audience member tells Mandrake. ‘If you only saw it on TV, you’d have thought Gina Miller hardly got a word in edgeways with her fellow panellist Piers Morgan mouthing off all the time, but in fact she made some great points that night.
‘I remember Mrs Miller presciently observing that Donald Trump couldn’t be trusted on a trade deal. It would have made the show look great if they’d aired that remark given the fuss the following day over what Trump had told the Sun.’
Miller declines to comment beyond sighing wearily and saying that she had felt ‘a bit outnumbered that night’. The other panellists were Barry Gardiner, Claire Perry and loopy Charles Moore.
Tellingly, when Miller raised the issue of a People’s Vote on a final deal, the chairman David Dimbleby cut her off and told her – although he never made good on this – that he might get back to the issue later on.
The show attracted criticism on Twitter. ‘Gina looks utterly depressed – surrounded by a panel and audience of shouty Brexiteers,’ one man posted. ‘This is not good enough.’ A BBC spokesman insists: ‘Nothing that Mrs Miller said was edited out of the programme.’
A £1 business
Although recently fined £70,000 for breaking electoral law, Arron Banks’ Leave.EU continues to struggle on as a business. Accounts just submitted to Companies House for the year ending September 2017 disclose a gaping £6,710,000 shareholders’ deficit – £600,000 up on the £5,566,000 reported for 2016.
Interestingly, its website is run by Better for the Country, which I revealed had provided it with more than £12 million in ‘administrative services’. Banks remains unnamed in the accounts as the source of £6 million in loans that are helping to keep Leave.EU afloat.
The insurance salesman is, however, named on the financial statements as a guarantor of the business – now principally involved with retailing old news and naff merchandise – though the value of that seems negligible.
As a note in the financial documents puts it: ‘The extent of this guarantee is to such amounts as may be required but not exceeding £1.’
I detected just the mildest whiff of sulphur when I found myself joined in a lift at Portcullis House, Westminster, by the star-cross’d Brextremists John Redwood and Frank Field.
‘I think we can go all the way,’ said the Tory member excitedly. The Labour man replied: ‘I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.’ I had no idea at all what the pair were talking about, but it made me shudder all the same.
Hope not hate
Even in Brexit Britain, Mandrake dares to ask if Britain could ever elect a man or woman of colour as prime minister. Chuka Umunna is engagingly modest about his own chances, but he tells me that he ‘hopes so’.
‘The politician with the biggest personal mandate is Sadiq Khan,’ he points out. ‘I’d hope that it wouldn’t preclude anyone assuming high office.’
Sadly, he detects underlying racism in a lot of the language used by the Brextremists. ‘It’s easy to see what they are hinting at when they use words like ‘cosmopolitan’ or ‘metropolitan,” he says.
He adds that racism – while less prevalent than it was – continues to be a problem for both the principal parties. ‘When I tentatively dipped my toe into the race for the leadership of my party in 2015, we did have some members of the PLP saying: ‘I’m sorry, we can’t support this guy because we don’t think our white working class constituents would ever vote for a black man.”