TIM WALKER on Vote Leave co-founder Matthew Elliott, the latest BBC embarrassment, and the feud rocking the Daily Telegraph.
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Can we all please take a few moments now to remember Matthew Elliott? Mandrake hears that the man who co-founded Vote Leave with Dominic Cummings is feeling the part he played in history is been woefully neglected.
“There would be no Brexit without Vote Leave and the boss of that was not Dominic, but Matthew,” one of Elliott’s mates from the now disbanded outfit tells me. “Dominic is great at promoting Dominic, but it’s simply not fair that he’s taking all the credit for himself.”
An uncharacteristic strategic error on Elliott’s part was to run Sajid Javid’s campaign to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader and not to reckon with how unforgiving Boris Johnson would turn out to be when he won.
My informant adds: “It no doubt suits Dominic’s interests to keep Matthew well away from Boris, but anyone who worked closely with the two of them will tell you that some of Dominic’s best ideas were actually Matthew’s, and, quite frankly, without Matthew there could have been no Dominic.”
It also no doubt grates with Elliott that he was played by the relatively unknown John Heffernan in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War, whereas Cummings was immortalised by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Over the weekend, Elliott, now a consultant for Shore Capital, could not bring himself to tweet his own congratulations to Johnson and Carrie Symonds on their engagement and imminent baby, but retweeted a few unctuous remarks from his wife Sarah, a big cheerleader for Donald Trump and stalwart of Republicans Abroad.
Jon Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, attracted some embarrassing headlines last year when it emerged he’d given a highly remunerative talk to staff of the Philip Morris tobacco giant.
Latest accounts for Manna Media, which channels Sopel’s freelance earnings, show it’s built up an £829,448 cash mountain. The accounts for 2019 show a healthy increase on the £604,077 it was worth the year before.
Sopel has to get by on around £245,000 a year from the corporation, so it’s unlikely there will be any more sympathy for his plight than there was for his editorial director Kamal Ahmed, who was lately shamed into returning the dosh he picked up from a hedge fund for addressing a banking conference.
A few years ago, Sopel was keen to get John Humphrys to shut up when he made light of the gender pay gap at the corporation in what he thought was an off-air conversation on the Today show that was later leaked.
In the days before Brexit when we were still talking, Sir David Barclay, who co-owns the Daily Telegraph with his brother Sir Frederick, hinted to me that there was a feud beginning to divide his family. It’s now of course all come out into the open in the High Court, with the claim that Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda had their private conversations secretly recorded. The pair allege Sir David’s three sons – Alistair, Aidan and Howard – as well as Aidan’s son Andrew were parties to the recordings.
My hunch is that it all started to go wrong for the brothers when they gave up on their cold water bathing routine a few years ago. The two would sit in adjoining icy baths for several minutes each morning, believing that it boosted their mental agility, virility and immune systems. I hope their fraternal relationship can soon be retrieved from the plughole.
On the money
Paul Lewis, the veteran Money Box presenter, kept rigidly to the BBC’s impartiality rules about Brexit during the EU referendum campaign, putting out facts without comment in his broadcasts and even on Twitter.
Now, happily, we are seeing more of the real Lewis, who clearly sees the absurdity of the situation we are now in as well as any of us. “The Home Office is to take over protecting us against coronavirus from the Department of Health,” the great man noted the other day. “The Home Secretary will simply ban the bugs from crossing the border unless they speak English and earn over £25,600.”