TIM WALKER on the former chancellor’s latest venture and the current fad for politicians to use Union Jacks as interview backdrops.
George Osborne is nothing if not a pragmatist. A passionate Remainer during the referendum campaign, he later became, as a newspaper editor, an unashamed champion of Boris Johnson.
Now, the former chancellor clearly sees a business opportunity in the “light touch” financial regulation that will come with Brexit. He has established a company that will be engaged in what he calls “activities of venture and development capital companies”.
Without fanfare, Osborne set up Aldridge Limited just before Christmas Day and has yet to register it with the Financial Conduct Authority. The name appears to have been inspired by his former family home in Notting Hill’s leafy Aldridge Villas. That may not be entirely auspicious as the property, which he shared with his estranged wife Frances, sold for £1m less than the £4.95m asking price in September last year.
Still, Osborne is unlikely ever to be short of money. Employment disclosures from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments show that he acquired no fewer than nine jobs between 2016 and 2018, including a £650,000-a-year, one-day-a-week gig at the investment company Blackrock, augmented by a handy £500,000-plus-a-year from the Washington Speakers Bureau.
Lord Lebedev appointed Osborne editor of the London Evening Standard in 2017 and he switched to being its editor-in-chief last year. He has also made a few quid out of the companies Exon NV and 9 Yards Capital.
The conventional wisdom was always that Sir David Barclay, who died last week at the age of 86, was smarter than his twin brother, Sir Frederick.
It’s true that Sir David was certainly the more image conscious of the two – he cultivated friendships with newspaper executives such as Paul Dacre, Geordie Greig and factory floor journalists such as David Leigh and, for a time, even myself – but sources close to Sir Frederick have lately been insisting he was the driving force behind all their most lucrative deals.
“Frederick saw the opportunity to buy the Ritz and drove it through and that was why he was so dismayed his brother sold it for a song,” I was told.
It was very much Sir David who wanted to acquire the Daily Telegraph and it looks unlikely that will turn out to be one of the twins’ shrewder investments. Mandrake anticipates a swift – possibly bargain basement – deal now that Sir David has gone.
Mandrake had the privilege of meeting Johnson Beharry, VC, before lockdown. When a television journalist asked for an interview, he didn’t feel the need to do it standing in front of a Union Jack, though there were a few around in the barracks that we were in. His patriotism – not to mention heroism – didn’t need to be illustrated.
I’d be interested to know how many government ministers have claimed Union Jacks on their expenses for use as background props for television interviews undertaken in their homes. One old Whitehall hand got in touch to remind me that in his day a belief in country was more subtly expressed – especially overseas in military and diplomatic buildings – by a portrait of the Queen. It may well be that government ministers are wary about using her image after she was reported to have been unamused that Boris Johnson misled her in 2019 about his five-week suspension of parliament, which was later ruled to have been unlawful.
Memo to Ben Elliott: your accounts for Quintessentially (UK) Limited are a year overdue. I for one am certainly keen to take a look at them. The Financial Times disclosed last year that the Department for International Trade had paid Quintessentially £1.4m to enable civil servants and the super-rich to “network at the highest levels”, under a contract that began in 2016.
Elliott, co-chair of the Tory party, Boris Johnson’s tennis partner and the nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, infuriated Labour’s Jon Trickett when he accepted the cash. “Handing over taxpayers’ money to a company run by the Tory Party co-chair just so officials can meet the ‘great and good’ is a blindingly obvious conflict of interest and a shocking waste of money,” he said at the time. A DIT spokesman said proper legal processes had been followed.