TIM WALKER on frustrations in the House of Lords, Boris Johnson’s messy office and the latest Gina Miller pile-on.
As the nation learns of Boris Johnson‘s New Year’s honours list, spare a thought for Norman Fowler – the Lord Speaker – who not so long ago set up the Burns committee to reduce the number of members of the Upper House.
“Norman is seething about the way Johnson has been stuffing the House with donors – not to mention a relative and the odd oligarch – as it runs against everything the report sought to achieve,” one fellow peer tells me. “Among other things, it wanted to see putative peers asked, before they accepted, how exactly they believed they could usefully contribute to the work of the House.”
Comically, in retrospect, Lord Bew was quoted in the report saying he wanted to see nominees who could bring “experience and expertise” to the Lords, and, who, taken together, would be more representative of the country at large.
My source adds: “What Johnson has been doing drives a coach and horses through that report and Norman wonders why on earth he was expected to put so much time and effort into it. The whole point of the Lords is that its members should contribute to the debates without fear or favour. I’ve actually seen Johnson’s placemen and women more or less being told how to vote and what to say.”
Earl Attlee, the grandson of the Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, said it was “shameful” Johnson had appointed 53 new peers in a single year. Lord Lexden, a fellow Tory who serves as one of the deputy speakers of the Lords, said the appointments commission should have resigned “en masse” over Johnson’s nomination of Peter Cruddas, a former party co-treasurer.
Cruddas featured in a newspaper ‘sting’ operation in 2012, when he was accused of offering access to David Cameron when he was PM in return for £250,000 in donations. He later won a libel action against the paper.
Mandrake could but sympathise with the Downing Street cleaners after seeing what a tip Boris Johnson‘s office looked in the pictures released of him negotiating his Brexit deal. Johnson sat with his feet up surrounded by fast food bags and empty beer bottles in a scene that could have come straight out of Withnail and I.
While obviously busy, this is sadly par for the course for him. At the Daily Telegraph, I recall how he would throw newspapers on the floor once he had read them, and, in September, I disclosed how there was dismay at the state of the flat he occupies above 11 Downing Street, which one witness said looked like “student digs”.
Steve Baker‘s Covid Recovery Group – an outfit set up to oppose the government’s latest lockdown measures – appears to be concerned about its image.
The Tory Brexiteer discloses in the latest register of members’ interests that Matthew Ferrey, a former executive with the controversial oil firm Vitol who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Tories over the years, has chipped in £5,000 to pay for a “media consultant” for the group between November 11 and 22. A further £4,500 was provided by Luke Johnson‘s Risk Capital Partners to pay for presumably the same media consultant from November 23 to December 2. The identity of this expensive individual isn’t disclosed.
Gina Miller continues to epitomise grace under pressure.
Leavers feeling triumphant after Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal – eminently worse than what we had before – saw it as the moment to pile in on the woman who successfully took his government and Theresa May’s to court to uphold parliamentary sovereignty.
Miller was unfazed and Tweeted: “For all those delighting in trolling me re Brexit
1) There’re people dying in the worst pandemic for centuries
2) be careful what you wish for
3) triple headwinds of COVID19, Brexit and climate change are going to haunt us for decades
4) I genuinely wish you a happy Christmas.”