MANDRAKE: Brextremists plot their revenge on the Lords
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TIM WALKER reports on the Tories' revenge on peers for their Brexit defeats, and the unlikely bond between Sir Frederick and a former Strictly Come Dancing judge.
It's undoubtedly convenient for 'officials' in Boris Johnson's government to say that the coronavirus is making it impractical for the House of Lords – where the average age is 70 – to meet in full until sometime next year. The Brextremists have neither forgotten nor forgiven the Lords – any more than the judges of the Supreme Court – for asserting their independence at various points over the past few years.
There's ominous talk, too, of 'wider reforms' – not to mention booting them all off to York – once things settle down, but pleasingly there's resistance, not least from the women of the Upper House. Baroness Hussein-Ece, a sprightly 64 with a life story that defies every media stereotype about the Lords, points out that Matt Hancock has said there should be no 'blanket ban' on the over-70s working. 'Take away the checks and balances we have in our constitution and we become a dictatorship,' she warns.
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As his dispiriting legal battle with his twin brother Sir David resumed online in the High Court this week, Sir Frederick Barclay, the co-owner of the Daily Telegraph, can take solace in at least one enduring, if unlikely, bond in his life. Cha-cha-cha forward, Len Goodman, of Strictly Come Dancing fame.
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'When Len started dancing at the age of 19, after a short time as an apprentice welder for Harland and Wolff, Fred bought him his first ballroom dancing suit and it was magnificent,' a friend of Sir Frederick tells Mandrake. 'Len never forgot that and they have been going to ballroom dancing events together ever since. Fred has two great pleasures in life – his ballroom dancing and his daily cigar.'
Sir David has cultivated friendships with newspapermen such as Geordie Greig, Paul Dacre and David Leigh, but his twin has never fretted about his public image and a lot less is known about him. There were rumours a few years ago that Sir Frederick, 85, was gravely ill, but these were unfounded. In addition to Goodman, the Queen and the Prince of Wales – regular patrons of the Ritz – are understood to have a soft spot for the old boy.
The privacy case that Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda are bringing against Sir David and his sons Alistair, Aidan and Howard – as well as Aidan's son Andrew – involves allegations of their conversations being bugged in the conservatory of the Ritz. Sir David participated in this week's online proceedings from the family's castle on Brecqhou, whereas Sir Frederick did so from his somewhat less ostentatious London residence.
The dispute is proving problematical for the establishment with Boris Johnson having to go out of his way to show he's not siding with either twin, given the newspaper they jointly own had, until he became prime minister, being paying him £270,000 a year. A peerage that had been rumoured to be in the offing for Aidan Barclay – Sir David's son, who presides over the newspaper – is said to be on hold until the case is decided. Proceedings are expected to resume in the High Court in November.
The abuse that greets David Cameron's tweets mean that he now says very little on the social networking website. When he got around to congratulating Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds on the birth of their baby Wilfred last week, he apologised for not leaving behind the cot in the Downing Street flat. 'I'm surprised you didn't leave the kid,' one funster riposted.
Theresa May has found a way to make money out of public speaking without actually speaking. This may well come as a relief to anyone who remembers her performance at the 2017 Tory conference.
The former PM has just disclosed that J P Morgan paid her £160,000 for two speaking engagements that had to be cancelled last month as a result of lockdown. If there are any gluttons for punishment, May has assured the bank she's still willing to make her speeches when it's safe to do so. She's managed to make more than £1 million since being ousted from Downing Street, which is good news for her employees and favoured charities.
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