MANDRAKE: Nigel Farage to be investigated

Nigel Farage in the parliament chamber at the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wir

Nigel Farage in the parliament chamber at the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Michael Crick to write unauthorised biography of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove's football freebies and a vote of confidence for John Bercow.

Quite possibly because he gets along so famously with media tycoons such as Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay and Rupert Murdoch, Nigel Farage hasn't until now been troubled unduly by investigative journalists inquiring into his colourful life.

Mandrake hears that's about to change as Michael Crick starts work on a no-holds-barred biography that will follow his books on Lords Archer and Heseltine and Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United boss.

During his days at Channel 4 News, Crick had periodic run-ins with Farage, most notably asking him if he had ever marched through a Sussex village as a schoolboy singing Hitler Youth songs. Farage had denied that he even knew the words to them.

It was, however, Crick's colleague Matt Frei who probably asked him the most awkward question when he inquired early last year who had paid for a private jet to take him from London and Strasbourg. The then MEP initially claimed he'd paid for it himself, but subsequently asserted an unidentified businessman had come forward to reimburse him for the trip in full.

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Crick would do well to look into that matter, and to speak, too, to Farage's former mistress, Annabelle Fuller, who told me she now regarded him as an "infantile w*****."

There was, incidentally, much speculation about why Crick suddenly and unexpectedly left Channel 4 News last year, but the journalist insisted at the time that he was "looking forward to an exciting new life writing books again". He has since joined the Daily Mail online outfit, Mail Plus.

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Sweet FA

How extraordinary that Michael Gove - who assured us all not so long ago that he would be "working literally flat-out" to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit - has managed to find the time to indulge his new-found passion for football.

The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has just admitted in the register of members' interests that he saw Manchester City play at home in November with an unidentified acquaintance.

Needless to say, the millionaire journalist-turned-politician didn't pay for the tickets and hospitality himself - retailing at £1,440 - which were picked up for reasons best known to its top brass by the club itself. The busy bee had earlier accepted three other tickets from the Football Association at a more modest £660.

Radio Ga Ga

When Martin Ivens was ousted as the editor of the Sunday Times, much was made in the official press release from the company of his skills as a broadcaster. This struck colleagues as somewhat eccentric as Ivens' periodic television and radio appearances scarcely put him up there in the pantheon of all-time greats, alongside with Richard Dimbleby and Robin Day.

As ever with the Murdoch empire, there was method in the madness. I hear that Ivens may soon be taking up a senior role in Times Radio, which aims to challenge the supremacy of Radio 4 when it launches in the spring.

Although there's been talk of "opinion-led" programming, even Murdoch recognises that a product quite as unsubtle in its political affiliations as Fox News would not win over the chattering classes on this side of the pond. Murdoch's occasional lunching partner Sarah Sands might take a role at Times Radio after she's served out her notice on the ailing Today programme.

Division bell

As allegations of bullying continue to be levelled against John Bercow, a number of old friends in parliament and beyond gave him a vote of confidence by showing up at the Southbank Kitchen in Camberwell, south London, for the party to launch his autobiography, Unspeakable.

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, was among those who attended, in addition to Ed Balls, Lord Hain, and, for the Tories, the soon-to-be-ennobled Ken Clarke. Gina Miller also put in an appearance.

Over the weekend, Bercow said he believed there was a "conspiracy" to deny him the peerage that's normally bestowed as a matter of course upon speakers when they relinquish office. He named no names, but said it was "blindingly obvious" that there was a "concerted campaign" to prevent him from entering the Upper House.

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