The Today programme disinvites Patrick Kielty after his epic Twitter showdown with Boris Johnson, the tears of Steve Baker and Boris Johnson’s freebie tickets to get booed at The Oval
The bookers on the ailing Today programme on Radio 4 felt they had pulled off quite a coup the other day by securing the popular Irish comedian Patrick Kielty as a guest. Alas, at the last minute, word came down from on high that he should be disinvited. I gather Kielty took it in good part, but the bookers were less forgiving. The assumption was that Kielty’s brilliant Twitter evisceration of Boris Johnson – over his blithe assertions about Brexit and the Irish Border issue – had made him persona non grata with Sarah Sands, the show’s editor and an unapologetic friend to Johnson.
‘Morale isn’t great on the show after we managed to mislay almost a million listeners and this episode hasn’t helped,’ whispers my disgruntled mole. ‘Always the conflict here seems to be about how to appeal to a younger audience. Kielty is precisely the kind of guy we need to get on to appeal to people under 70.’
The BBC press office was typically helpful when I inquired if Kielty had been dropped from the show without specifying the correct day. ‘I had a chat with editors that isn’t the case and it would incorrect to write it as such [SIC],’ they replied by email. So I asked if Kielty had been stood down on any day recently and this time they responded: ‘He was invited the previous week, but, in the end, the scheduling didn’t work for us, so he was never confirmed.’
Sands backed Johnson for mayor of London when she edited the Evening Standard, and even had a flattering picture of him in her office during her brief, ill-starred tenure as editor of the Sunday Telegraph. On Brexit, she has made little attempt to hide where her sympathies lie. She has been photographed lunching with Rupert Murdoch, Liam Fox and Nigel Farage, and her son Henry was on the payroll of the former Ulster Unionist MP David Burnside, yet another of her Brextremist acquaintances. Sands has also been a staunch defender of John Humphrys, a chum of the ousted Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. The veteran broadcaster is often accused by listeners of being too obviously enthusiastic about Brexit, but, the other day, he professed on the show to be getting bored of hearing about the policy, and wondered why he couldn’t just get on with his life. He is 75.
Mandrake was interested to hear the insurance salesman Arron Banks saying on the BBC that his Brexit campaigning had cost him millions, but his ‘personal wealth’ had made the indulgence possible.
I’ve documented over the past year how a number of his business activities haven’t exactly been coining it for him, and I regret to have to report that another one of his enterprises is struggling. Westmonster, the pro-Brexit news website he set up in January 2016 and is run by his trusted sidekick Elizabeth Bilney, has just disclosed an £85,000 deficit in accounts just in at Companies House. Pocket change, of course, compared to the £13m worth of admin services I revealed his business Better for the Country provided to Leave.Eu.
Tears for fears I always knew there would be tears before bedtime among Brextremists, but never imagined it would be Steve Baker who would shed them. Still, I’m reliably informed the former Brexit minister became emotional in a documentary to be broadcast on the BBC in the New Year. His stiff upper lip has been under some pressure in at least one newspaper interview he has given lately, too. His Brexit dream may not be turning out quite as he had imagined, but his shareholding in Glint Pay Limited, a company set up to acquire gold for investors nervous about the economy, is, as I first disclosed in February, turning out to be a nice little earner. His stake is now worth around £80,000 – and likely, of course, to rise a lot further if Britain exits the EU without a deal. Not cricket
In a barometer reading of public opinion, Boris Johnson was spontaneously booed by cricket fans when he showed his face at England’s final Test against India at The Oval last month. Mandrake imagines they would have booed louder if they had known Johnson had – unlike them – managed to get in without even having to pay for his tickets.
Surrey County Cricket Club – where the multi-millionaire businessman Richard Thompson is the chairman – chose to give him a pair of tickets that would set a normal punter back £1,800. Poor old Johnson has to get by on his meagre MP’s salary, supplemented by the £23,000 a month ‘chicken feed’ he gets from the Daily Telegraph, plus other freelance income.