Conscious maybe that he is coming in second to his cabinet colleague Liz Truss in polls of Tory party members, Rishi Sunak has not let the pandemic stop him trying to make friends and influence people. Latest transparency disclosures from the chancellor show he undertook an exhausting 119 meetings between October and December.
These outstrip all of his cabinet colleagues, and, intriguingly, show he’s taking an interest in not just his own brief, but also those of his colleagues. He’s been glad-handing the British Medical Association, talking about climate change to the former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and rail reform with representatives of Network Rail.
He’s met with the outfit PUBLIC, which clams to “bring together experience from the public sector, technology and finance to help solve public problems”, as well as the pollsters Gallup. He also seems to want to win support at an even higher level with meetings with the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Leeds and Newcastle, officially to discuss support for the north of England during the pandemic.
Sunak, pictured, also met with the human rights organisation Liberty – to discuss the Gender Recognition Act – in addition to meetings more routine for a chancellor, such as with representatives of banks and businesses, as well as five meetings held with the Financial Conduct Authority; one with the Bank of England and another with the Prudential Regulation Authority; as well as an introductory meeting with Tony Danker, who took over at the CBI before Christmas. He also had two one-to-one meets with SAGE.
Suank’s boss Boris Johnson records only 39 meetings over the same period, but for the PM it’s always been about economy of effort. He matches Sunak when it comes to meetings with representatives of the press: both held 13. Johnson met with Geordie Greig, the Daily Mail editor, which, he may well have noticed, has not been conspicuously supportive lately.
It was the late Sir David Barclay – rather than his twin brother Sir Frederick – who loved owning the Daily and Sunday Telegraph. “I owned the toy shop and got to play in it,” Sir David told me once in a WhatsApp message that made a nonsense of the claims of no proprietorial interference that were made during the Leveson inquiry.
Six months after Sir David’s death at the age of 86, Sir Frederick is keen to raise as much cash as he can as he has agreed a £100 million divorce settlement with his former wife Hiroko. He would doubtless love to get shot of the family “toy shop”, which has officially been up for sale since October 2019, but there have, embarrassingly, still been no serious offers.
“Frederick hasn’t the emotional attachment to the Telegraph titles,” one well-placed source tells me. “He wants a deal and quickly.”
Largely at Sir David’s insistence, the family purchased, in 2004, the titles and the Spectator from a gleeful Lord (Conrad) Black for £665m, but analysts doubt they will recoup much more than a third of that in any sale. The Daily Mail group was previously interested in acquiring the ailing newspapers, but Paul Dacre, their editor-in-chief, now seems distracted by his efforts to take over at the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
Last week Sir Frederick withdrew his suit in the High Court against his nephews over a bugging operation that he stated was conducted against him and his daughter Amanda at the Ritz hotel in London. Details of the reconciliation agreement were not disclosed.
Mandrake’s friend in the world of publishing says a number of politicians – including Labour’s Stella Creasy, pictured – have books coming out soon offering ways to fix the political mess we’re in.
“Whether they will find a market is another matter,” says the bookworm. “Those who understand we’re in a mess know the problems well enough and don’t need to be reminded of them, and those who don’t, aren’t, generally speaking, interested in finding out.”
First out of the stocks is Creating the World We Want to Live In, written by a group of academics, including Bridget Grenville-Cleave. Its conclusion is not entirely startling “Change is never easy, but change is possible and this is a great time to begin,” the authors declare.
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