MANDRAKE: Dominic Grieve lifts the lid on why the Russia report still hasn’t been released
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Former Intelligence and Security Committee chair Dominic Grieve has a theory for why the Russia report is still yet to be released.
Dominic Grieve has an intriguing theory about why the report into Russian involvement in British politics has still – more than a year after the Intelligence and Security Committee completed it – failed to see the light of day. 'I can only imagine Dominic Cummings – in a fit of pique about my stance on Brexit – is behind it, but it makes no sense, as there were Leavers and Remainers on the committee when I was chairing it,' Grieve tells Mandrake. 'That never came into it, and, what's more, I'd say it's turned out to be an own goal since the speculation about the report has proved damaging for the government.'
After being cleared by the relevant agencies, the report was presented to Boris Johnson last October and he's sat on it ever since. Grieve has read it in its unredacted glory, but, mindful of the Official Secrets Act, he's not divulged a word. 'I asked the PM to ensure it was published before the election, as it was in everyone's interests to know what it contained. He's offered me no explanation for the delay, so I'm as mystified as anyone.'
There have been rumours the report raises concerns about Russian oligarchs residing in the UK who have close links to Tory politicians – and Vladimir Putin – and that it casts light on alleged interference in the EU referendum. Its thesis is said to be that Britain 'took its eye off the ball' in relation to Russia.
'It looks at the threat from Russia in the round and all I can say is that if people get to see it in its present form it may lead them to ask questions,' Grieve says.
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'The committee is being reconvened... but I've found the reasons given for the delay up until now unconvincing. Also we stopped taking evidence for the report in the latter part of 2018 and so when it does eventually come out it'll be very out of date.'
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Much was made of Martin Ivens' not-yet-properly-recognised skills as a broadcaster when it was announced he was departing as editor of the Sunday Times. This led to speculation he was about to be found a role at Rupert Murdoch's Times Radio. I'm informed, however, that Ivens applied to succeed Sarah Sands as editor of the Today programme. Alas, former newspaper editors appear to be going out of fashion at the BBC and it was the long-time corporation employee Owenna Griffiths who got the gig. Ivens can take consolation in being made editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
PEN AND INK
When the Daily Telegraph went 'digital first,' I defiantly insisted –along with Ben Brogan, at the time its deputy editor – I defiantly insisted on writing with an ink pen.
Happily, ink pens appear to be making a comeback as a result of the coronavirus. Azeem Zakria, of that fine Oxford institution Scriptum, tells me fountain pens – even quills – have been in strong demand since lockdown. 'Everyone is writing books, plays and memoirs with them,' he says. 'People find them reassuring.' The stationery shop has reopened which happily means they will no longer have to order them online.
Dominic Pimenta is the 32-year-old frontline doctor who quit the NHS after Boris Johnson took no action over Dominic Cummings' 260-mile trip to Durham. 'I'm not a political person, but it made a nonsense of the lockdown rules in force at the time, and a nonsense, too, of the PM clapping for the NHS,' says Dr Pimenta. 'In a very real way, it put lives in danger.'
Although the cardiology registrar is still working gruellingly long hours – he'll stay in post so long as the epidemic continues – he's found time to set up the HEROES charity which has raised £1 million to provide healthcare workers with PPE, childcare grants, food deliveries and counselling.
In September, Welbeck is publishing his book Duty of Care, which charts the story of the unfolding crisis with all the royalties going to his charity. I ask him if he'd feel happy going to a pub. 'Not yet, sadly,' he says.
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