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MANDRAKE: The chancellor’s cash for Carrie Johnson’s charity

Boris Johnson may be frustrated by Rishi Sunak's reluctance to fund his increasingly hair-brained schemes, but the prime minister's wife Carrie at least has reason to be grateful to the chancellor.

Carrie Johnson, the PM's conservationist wife, during an anti-whaling protest outside the Japanese Embassy in central London. PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson may be frustrated by Rishi Sunak‘s reluctance to fund his increasingly hair-brained schemes, but the prime minister’s wife Carrie at least has reason to be grateful to the chancellor.

Mandrake can disclose that the Aspinall Foundation, the conservation charity that employs her, has been receiving as much as £10,000 a month from December to February as part of Sunak’s furlough scheme. The cash injections dried up in March when the Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry into the charity, focusing on allegations of conflicts of interest among its trustees and misuse of charitable resources.

Johnson acknowledged his wife’s role as “head of communications” at the foundation in May’s register of ministers’ interests. She started to work for the charity in January, before the investigation began. Her salary will be reported in the foundation’s 2020 accounts, due in the autumn.

Damian Aspinall, the casino owner and socialite who chairs it, received no pay, though the accounts say he received £18,003 for “expenses incurred on behalf of the foundation”. The magnificent 30-room Howletts Mansion in Kent, owned by the charity, was rented to Aspinall for £2,500 a month. A total of £12,500 was paid to his wife Victoria for design services, which was down on the £50,000 paid to her in 2018.

Fingers crossed that Mrs Johnson, pictured, can hang on to her job at the charity. The couple clearly need the dual income after the struggle they had to find the £55,000 to redecorate their Downing Street flat. Mrs Johnson is very much the one who has to balance the family budget. In a row with her future husband in 2019, she saw fit to shriek at him: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.”

Murdoch’s man

Mandrake received an early edition of the Sunday Times over the weekend that confidently touted Michael Gove as the “frontrunner” to take over from Matt Hancock as health secretary.

“Gove has won the prime minister’s trust, and is also seen to have the reforming zeal and energy necessary to turn the health department around,” Rupert Murdoch‘s newspaper reported, unctuously, if improbably. The man who actually got the job – Sajid Javid – appeared some way down the list, merely as an “outsider”. Relationships may all too often be fleeting in the political arena, but Gove and Murdoch clearly have something special.

Green cash

The campaigning group Extinction Rebellion dumped a lorry load of manure outside the Daily Mail‘s head office in Kensington over the weekend because of what one protestor called “their bull**** on climate change”.

Paul Dacre, the newspaper group’s editor-in-chief, ought to have told them about the Canaird River Company, his green energy firm. Accounts just in for the hydroelectric plant he runs on his 17,000-acre estate in Langwell in Scotland show it’s making him a pretty penny. It has £1,955,207 in retained earnings as of December 31, 2020. It made £519,904 in 2020, £481,812 in 2019, £415,152 in 2018 and £509,135 in 2017. Long term, the business is expected to make him £15m.

Trojan horse

Sooner or later, someone in authority – whether it’s the leader of the opposition or a member of the cabinet – is going to have to admit that Brexit isn’t working.

Sajid Javid. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) – Credit: Getty Images

My money is on Sajid Javid, pictured. His appointment as health secretary is significant not least because he was – up until the referendum of 2016 – a passionate Remainer. He must now be only too well aware that Boris Johnson needs him a lot more than he needs Boris Johnson.

I last had a proper chat with Javid in 2018 when he was still the communities secretary. I asked him what his thoughts were about Brexit. “The vast majority of us now do accept the vote,” he replied, cautiously. “Some may not like it, but we have to get on with it and make it work.”

He then said that, as exit day approached, he was certain that the government’s “absolute top priority” would be “jobs and the economy”. He also believed the government would negotiate “a good, comprehensive relationship with the EU”. In regard to these, Javid must be bitterly disappointed.