TIM WALKER on Michael Gove’s reverse Midas touch.
Michael Gove – the man who assured British fishermen that Brexit would make them rich – appears not to have lost his reverse Midas touch. Since joining the board of trustees of Dorneywood, Rishi Sunak’s grace and favour country retreat in Buckinghamshire, the value of its investments has plummeted by £715,000.
Boris Johnson appointed Gove as one of the six trustees of the Dorneywood Trust, the private charity that pays for the upkeep of Dorneywood, in March 2020, and its latest set of accounts, covering the period up to Christmas, show the extent of the losses as the wider stock market rebounded after the crash that followed the start of the pandemic.
As a trustee, Gove, pictured, oversees the overall strategy and meets formally with the investment managers twice a year to review the performance of the portfolio and the investment managers. The investment managers report four times a year to the trustees to ensure that they are satisfied that the aims of their investment policy are achieved.
Still, even after its abysmal year, the trust still retains £10.6 million, a sum Johnson, who wanted his own charity to pay for the controversial Downing Street renovations, would no doubt have found useful.
Dorneywood was gifted to the nation by the businessman Lord Courtauld-Thomson, who inherited his wealth from his father Robert Thomson, the inventor of the pneumatic tyre.
It would be churlish not to concede that Simon Walters of the Daily Mail has done a grand job digging away at how Boris Johnson set about refunding the refurbishments in his Downing Street flat. The story is important as it turns not on Johnson’s dire taste, but his honesty and integrity and who it is who is ultimately funding him.
Sadly, the Daily Mail‘s sister paper the Mail on Sunday decided over the weekend to be decidedly churlish when it ran a full-page editorial under the headline: “Almost everyone in this country has better things to worry about that Boris and Carrie’s wallpaper.”
Lord Rothermere cannot be happy owning two feuding and dysfunctional newspapers, but if Paul Dacre heads off to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, it’s not inconceivable he will take the opportunity to merge the two titles under Geordie Greig as editor-in-chief.
The pandemic has been a grim time for travel writers. Sarah Tucker has not, however, sat around twiddling her thumbs, but turned her plight into an amusing novella called The Redundant Travel Journalist, which is now available on Amazon.
Interestingly, she’s been reflecting on her trade and wonders if travel-writing hasn’t lost its way. “Tourism was always about the experience, until it became more about the price, and then the cost, and then the competition, and then it wasn’t about the journey or even the destination. It was all about you. The destination became just the backdrop to the ego.”
The late Lord Deedes was an old Harrovian who used to be repelled by the overt snobbery of his old Etonian colleagues on the Daily Telegraph.
Deedes, who edited the paper from 1974 to 1986 and subsequently wrote for it as a columnist, told me it was especially obvious in the way Charles – now Lord – Moore responded to John Major, who hailed from Brixton. Moore notoriously asked Major, in an interview he did when he was running for the Tory leadership, what it was he could possibly contribute as prime minister, compared to, say, his (old Etonian) rival Douglas Hurd.
I quoted Deedes in a biography I wrote of Norma Major saying: “There was a feeling in some quarters, not least among journalists, who have among their number some of the worst snobs in the country, that the Majors were a bit common.”
Deedes would no doubt have had something to say about the abhorrence Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds, pictured, are said to have had for “nightmare” John Lewis furniture. Over the weekend, the Times quoted an individual in Johnson’s circle disdainfully talking about the fact “No 10 looks like a second-rate Bognor guest house”.
For all Deedes’ efforts, the Telegraph still rejoices in its snobbery. Its style book insists that the word “toilet” should never be used in its pages, only ever “lavatory”.