Tim Walker on the fractured relationship between the Conservative party and the papers.
In another momentous week, the story of how a group of researchers from Cambridge University had found that cold-water bathing may protect the brain from dementia slipped the minds of most of the national editors soon enough.
Not, however, on the Daily Telegraph, where it was deemed to be of the greatest importance by the editor Chris Evans.
The story made the front page and health journalist Maria Lally was enlisted to write a prominent piece for the comment section in which she extolled the merits of this spartan practice. She said that Hippocrates was all for a dip in icy cold water, Victorian doctors had prescribed it for everything from bruising to hysteria and it could also be useful in treating depression and insomnia and boosting the immune system.
Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, always profess to have no say in what appears in the Telegraph, but it so happens they have themselves long been keen proponents of cold water bathing. The octogenarian identical twins attribute their own virility and mental agility to immersing themselves (separately) in icy water daily. They believe in the ritual so passionately they have even funded a cohort study into it at a London teaching hospital.
I am told the brothers did not fund this latest research – it was backed by the UK Dementia Research Institute and Medical Research Council – but a spokesman for Sir Frederick says he still believes his daily icy bath “keeps his mind alert and sharp”. Sir David sadly doesn’t talk to me any more.
Cold water bathing is also said to be good for the circulation, but whether it will help the Daily Telegraph’s remains to be seen. One year on from the Barclays’ announcement that the title was up for sale, there are apparently no takers.
Relations between Lord Rothermere and Boris Johnson are close to breaking point. The Daily Mail owner has let it be known that he wants all his staff back at their work stations, suited and booted, at his Kensington head office and is leading by example. He is concerned about how Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus is impacting on his businesses, not least his events and exhibitions arm and the Metro titles, which depend upon commuters heading into work each day in the big cities.
The Mail has been aggressively pushing Johnson to get Britain working again, and, over the weekend, the newspaper demanded that the PM release the country “from its living death”. The Mail once demanded that John Major be “ditched” as Tory leader, and I’m told if Johnson doesn’t do as he’s told by the paper the same fate almost certainly awaits him.
The journalist Simon Heffer’s name figured in one of the emails that Brittany Kaiser, the former Cambridge Analytica employee who appeared in Netflix’s The Great Hack, has handed over to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee. It dates back to November 2015 when Heffer was among the attendees at an early Brexit campaign dinner at the private members’ club 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair. Other guests included Nigel Farage and the Barclays.
Lord Deedes, the Telegraph’s most celebrated columnist, would not have been surprised by this gathering ill met by moonlight. In his authorised biography of Deedes, Stephen Robinson said that he considered Heffer’s to be “the voice of a raucous, populist brand of Conservatism that was alien to the Telegraph’s culture and anathema to his own One Nation sympathies”. Deedes didn’t care for the direction the Barclays wanted to take the paper and he never forgave them for putting “a stinking mob” in charge of it.
Jennifer Arcuri, disclosed to an unstartled world the other day that she had indeed had a sexual relationship with Boris Johnson.
I ask her whether she believes Johnson, given all the emotional baggage that he carries, including his troubled relationship with his father and the way he has treated the women in his life, is a fit and proper person to be prime minister. “That’s an excellent question,” she says, tantalisingly, but refuses to elaborate.
If Johnson thinks he’s now heard the last from Arcuri, I fancy he is very much mistaken.