If the Queen seemed more at ease around president Biden at the G7 summit than her own prime minister, it’s hardly surprising.
“All of HM’s relationships are built on trust and she’s never forgiven Johnson for taking her name in vain in 2019 when he sought to suspend parliament by royal prerogative,” one senior courtier tells me. “It put the Queen into an intolerable position: her first minister promoting a highly controversial move in her name, only to have it declared unlawful by the Supreme Court, which, I need hardly add, dispenses justice in her name.”
More mindful perhaps of public opinion than Johnson, the Queen, pictured, has lately made it clear that she would not approve his plan to name his proposed super-yacht after the late Duke of Edinburgh or accord it royal yacht status. Downing Street had no choice but to describe it lamely as a “national flagship” and add that “its role will be distinct from that of any previous national flagship, reflecting the UK’s new status as an independent trading nation and helping us to seize the opportunities that status presents.”
That statement could only add that it was the government’s “intention” to build the proposed ship in the UK.
Probably the most awkward moment at the G7 for Johnson and the Queen came when they were expected to pose for a photograph in socially-distanced seats at the Eden Project’s base in Cornwall. Without engaging Johnson in eye contact, HM said: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?” Johnson responded: “We have been enjoying ourselves, in spite of appearances.”
Few, if any, journalists gave Boris Johnson a tougher time at the G7 than Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News. “President Biden thought you were Donald Trump‘s clone,” Gibbon told Johnson. He put it to Johnson, too, that EU leaders felt he couldn’t keep his word. A rattled Johnson turned to his minders after the filming was over and said: “How much more of this? Come on.”
Johnson no doubt found the encounter all the more exasperating because he knows only too well that Gibbon – while always a fiercely independent journalist – is one of his ambitious rival Michael Gove‘s oldest mates. “Gary is one of the few pals Michael has that go back from pretty much the start – they were at Glasgow University together – and in London he originally hung around with people like him and Ed Vaizey and Steve Hilton,” whispers my informant.
“Michael culled a lot of friends he made in the lefty Notting Hill set when he started to make a real fist of his career in Tory politics. Those included Sarah Smith, the BBC journalist, and Alex Harvey, who he got to know when he was working for On the Record. Gove never dropped Gary as he no doubt saw they could have a mutually beneficial relationship.”
In 2016, when Gove knifed Johnson and launched his vain bid for the Tory leadership, Gibbon wrote a piece that made the point that he had Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Lord and Lady Rothermere in his corner and that he had “massive unrivalled appeal for core supporters”.
What with Gibbon, Dominic Cummings and Luke Graham – who encouraged Johnson to make his disastrous trip to Scotland earlier this year – the PM has no doubt had it up to here with Gove’s mates, old and new.
Charities appoint political grandees to senior positions on the basis that they will give more than they take.
Since his involvement in the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal was revealed, David Cameron, pictured, has been talking a lot about Alzheimer’s Research UK in what would appear to be an attempt to change the subject.
When I put in calls in April to the charity and to Cameron’s spokesman to clarify whether it was his intention to stay on as its president, neither responded. The reason for this, I am now told, is that there has been an argument among the charity’s trustees and senior executives about Cameron’s position. “It comes down to this – is Cameron going to encourage or discourage people to give money?” says a well-placed observer. I confidently predict Alzheimer’s Research UK will have a new president installed by Christmas.