After spending millions on noisy work for a new extension, Cummings has been winding his neighbours up as much as the rest of the country, TIM WALKER reports.
Booed and jeered by his neighbours in Islington, north London, for his disregard of the lockdown rules, Dominic Cummings has long had a reputation as disruptive influence in his road. Mandrake hears from nearby residents who say they were ‘deafened’ when he demolished the two-storey rear extension to his £2 million mansion and replaced it with a two-storey part-width rear extension and a full-width ground-floor extension.
‘The noise and disruption was unbearable,’ one tells me. Cummings, and his wife Mary Wakefield bought the property in July 2013 and submitted their plans five months later. They refurbished the ground floor with a formal living room, a reading room with double height space; as well as an amended lower ground floor, complete with a retained tapestry room (how elitist is that?), kitchen, dining room, window seat and adjacent wildlife pond.
Work on this scale wouldn’t have cheap for Cummings, who began planning for the project long before he joined Boris Johnson in Downing Street on what would no doubt be considered there as a ‘chicken feed’ salary of £100,000 or less.
Cummings is not, of course, the only member of Johnson’s inner sanctum to be big on home improvements. Last week it emerged that the communities secretary Robert Jenrick had been granted permission for an extension to one of his London homes. Officials on Westminster council had previously objected twice. A third application, made two months after Jenrick was elected as an MP, was approved after a Conservative councillor living in the neighbourhood intervened to request the application be referred to a planning committee, which gave it the go-ahead.
The other day, I noted how many Boris Johnson disciples had been repenting. Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie had announced he’d ‘broken’ with him, Piers Morgan – who’d voted for him – said he was ‘done,’ and the Spectator – which Johnson used to edit – ran a piece saying he isn’t fit to lead. Even the former Sunday Times columnist Sarah Baxter now seems reconciled to the fact the ‘cheerful Brexit’ she told her readers he’d deliver might not happen.
Now, it’s Peter Oborne’s turn. ‘I have reported on British politics for almost three decades, and have never encountered a senior British politician who lies, cheats and fabricates as habitually or systematically – or with as much inventive relish – as Boris Johnson,’ he wrote in Middle East Eye last week.
This is the same Oborne who wrote in the Daily Mail barely nine months ago: ‘I used to know Boris Johnson very well… He was a wise and compassionate individual with a gift for forging friendships… He’s capable of being a huge figure on the international stage, a master of charm and diplomacy…’
In behaviour strangely reminiscent of David Brent, Boris Johnson took it upon himself to demonstrate to a journalist last week that he could do press-ups. Mandrake would like to see the prime minister show off his kung fu skills next. Am I being serious? Yes. I can’t necessarily vouch for its veracity, but Johnson used to list the Chinese martial art under ‘recreations’ in Debrett’s People of Today.
Nigel Pargetter died in The Archers nine years ago, but has since risen triumphantly from the grave in a three-part podcast that’s available at www.thepargettertriptych.com. Its scripted by Helen Leadbeater – one of the Radio 4 show’s original writers – and Nigel is once again played by the great Graham Seed.
So much has happened during Nigel’s period six feet under that Mandrake wondered what he’d make of Brexit. ‘His concerns about the downfall of Lower Loxley would almost certainly have made him a Remainer,’ Seed, tells me. ‘He’d have been very upset that his wife Lizzie never got around to applying for an EU grant to maintain their ha-ha as now, of course, it’s too late. And his dreams of exporting Lower Loxley wines to Europe, where are they?’