Outsted Mail chief Paul Dacre and May’s former chief of staff tipped for honours; Michael Gove talks on D-Day of his sacrifice; and how Steve Baker can live in the lap of luxury in the heart of Westminster.
Hardly spoilt for choice when it comes to friends and colleagues who have stayed loyal, Theresa May nevertheless plans to acknowledge the few that managed it in her resignation honours’ list. Mandrake expects that Fiona Hill, her former joint chief of staff, and Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail editor who used to call her “the new Iron Lady”, will be on it, along with her husband, Philip.
“It’s already being dubbed the ‘little list’ after the one that features in The Mikado, and, believe me, it’s necessarily very little,” whispers my man still stuck in the No. 10 bunker. “It’ll be as notable for who isn’t on it as who is. There will be nothing, for instance, for her other former joint chief of staff Nick Timothy, who has bellyached incessantly about her since she had to allow him to go after the bungling of the 2017 general election. Touchingly, meanwhile, she wants to acknowledge Philip in the way that Margaret Thatcher did Denis, but nothing quite so grand as a baronetcy.”
I disclosed early last month how May was determined not to leave office until she had served three years and predicted her last day as PM would be July 15, the first weekday after the anniversary falls. In the event, I was merely a week out, if Laura Kuenssberg is to be believed. The BBC political editor reported – possibly optimistically – that the Tories had “confirmed” to her that a new PM would be installed in the week starting July 22.
HOUSE PROUD The business tycoon Greville Howard – controversially elevated to the peerage by the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith after he had put £100,000 in consultancy fees his way – is keeping Steve Baker in the lap of luxury.
The latest register of members’ interests shows that Baker, the deputy chairman of the ERG and Boris Johnson’s principal cheerleader, is still residing in a grand townhouse in Lord North Street in the heart of Westminster, courtesy of Howard’s company Jardentome Limited. Baker declares he has benefited to the tune of £1,105 a month by staying at the property from June 2019 to May 2020.
As shadow cabinet office minister, Jon Trickett raised concerns about the arrangement when it was first disclosed in 2017 since he felt that Baker, then working at the Department for Exiting the European Union, could be open to the charge of being “guided by private interests”. Howard is a committed eurosceptic and Vote Leave donor who was a chum of the prototype Brextremist Sir James Goldsmith. Still, he hasn’t always been good at picking winners: he loaned the house in 1995 to Michael Portillo when he was plotting to succeed John Major as prime minister, but abandoned the attempt after journalists spotted the multiple telephone lines being installed.
Michael Gove launched his first unsuccessful bid for the Tory leadership on June 30, 2016, as the Queen attended a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 100th anniversary of the British army’s bloodiest day on the Somme. In keeping with this crass tradition, for his second attempt at the leadership, Gove chose last Thursday – as veterans and world leaders marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day – to set out his credentials for the job in the Daily Mail. “I’ve put everything on the line,” he wrote. It seemed bad enough to talk about his supposed sacrifice on such a day, let alone now that we have come to associate the word ‘line’ in relation to him with something else entirely.
FOND REGARDS Appearing on John Nicolson’s TalkRadio show the other day, I mischievously inquired if he would by any chance be backing Jo Swinson in her bid to succeed Sir Vince Cable as leader of the Lib Dems. “Why of course,” he laughed. “It’s a chance for the nation to discover the real Jo – the wit, the unimpeachable voting record, and the delightful, self-deprecating charm.”
In a seemingly never-ending turf war that was considered bruising even by Scottish standards, Swinson lost her East Dunbartonshire seat to Nicolson when he stood for the SNP in 2015, but then reclaimed it from him in the snap general election of 2017.