MANDRAKE: Gavin Barwell happy to be Newsnight punchbag
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Theresa May's old chief of staff is eager to raise his profile as he tries to make a new career in consulting, Dan Hannan promotes The New European and why timing was everything for Sir Michael Fallon
Although the government is finding it increasingly hard to find 'cannon fodder' for television current affairs programmes, Lord Gavin Barwell cheerfully popped up on Newsnight last week following Jacob Rees-Mogg's sickening comments about the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Barwell's cameo appearance was especially surprising since he, as housing minister, was allegedly sent seven warning letters on the need to review safety rules in the months before the Grenfell blaze (he is said to have sent just three short replies), but he nevertheless spoke up for Rees-Mogg, after he'd suggested the victims had only themselves to blame for not leaving the building earlier, saying "we're too quick to demand that people resign".
For good measure, Barwell went on to say that Alun Cairns, who has just resigned as Welsh secretary after another crisis, was a man of "the highest integrity."
Barwell, controversially ennobled by Theresa May in her resignation honours for his period as her chief of staff has, however, good reason to want to raise his profile. He has just set up an outfit called Gavin Barwell Consulting to channel earnings from speaking engagements, corporate advice, journalism and other money-making activities. There is no word as yet about this venture in the Register of Lords' Interests, but he will no doubt rectify that in time.
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With the BBC still reluctant to acknowledge the existence of this mighty newspaper - wakey-wakey Sarah Sands, editor of the Today programme - I should like to put on record my heartfelt thanks to my old Telegraph colleague Daniel Hannan for shamelessly bigging us up in his Sunday Telegraph column over the weekend.
"The Remainers' newspaper, The New European, carried a picture of Nigel Farage in a Stop Brexit hat," wrote the Vote Leave Founder and sometime MEP. "It's headline? 'Remain's Secret Weapon'."
While naturally grateful to Hannan, I do wonder if it was such a great idea for a man still making such a good living from Telegraph bosses Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay to go on to slag off Farage quite so robustly. I'd simply remind him that Farage was a guest of the Barclays at their infamous party at the Ritz precisely three years ago to celebrate the vote to leave the EU.
Farage left somewhat the worse for wear after posing with a gigantic plate of Ferrero Rocher chocolates - a nod to the rumours then circulating that he was about to become Our Man in Washington and a television advertisement only Brextremists would be old enough to remember.
Judgment in presenter Samira Ahmed's unequal pay case against the BBC may not come until early next year, but what it has highlighted is how journalists at the corporation who focus purely on being impartial purveyors of news and information are likely to be paid significantly less than those - like, say, Jeremy Vine - who manage to combine that with a spot of light entertainment.
This explains the desperate and undignified scramble by corporation journalists to get on to shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Have I Got News for You to demonstrate that they can also be 'personalities'.
All of which would have appalled the late, great Sir Robin Day. His proudest moment, he once told me, was when he appeared on the old Richard & Judy show to promote his memoirs, and, when Richard Madeley started to interview him, Day asked him, quite seriously: "Which one are you, Richard or Judy?" Madeley, possessing little sense of humour, replied simply: "Richard."
Sir Michael Fallon's announcement that he was stepping down as the MP for Sevenoaks was interesting in one respect: He had left it until the last possible moment.
This must have irked Anna Firth, the former co-chair of Vote Leave's Women for Britain, who, as a Sevenoaks councillor, would have been a strong contender for the ultra-safe Tory seat. "Michael and Anna did not get along terribly well, not least because Michael was very much a Remainer and Anna very much a Leaver," whispers my man in Sevenoaks. "Revenge can sometimes be a dish served up so cold and late that it can actually be quite mouldy."
In the event, Firth has ended up fighting for Canterbury against the hugely popular Labour incumbent Rosie Duffield, and the charismatic and charming Liberal Democrat candidate... me!
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