MANDRAKE: Peerage for wife of Boris Johnson’s biographer

Prime minister Boris Johnson lifting a few rounds of weights at a branch of The Gym Group in his Sou

Prime minister Boris Johnson lifting a few rounds of weights at a branch of The Gym Group in his South Ruislip constituency; Archie Brooksbank/The Gym Group/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The PM may have been thinking 'tactically' when he honoured the wife of his biographer Tom Bower, writes TIM WALKER.

If Boris Johnson hoped the knighthood he conferred upon Philip May would make his wife Theresa a less critical backbencher, he may have been thinking tactically, too, about the peerage he conferred upon the former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley. This October the investigative journalist Tom Bower – Wadley's husband – publishes a biography of the prime minister entitled Boris Johnson: The Gambler.

The pugnacious Bower, pictured, pulled no punches with his previous accounts of the lives of Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Branson and Prince Charles and he guards his reputation for independence fiercely.

His household has, however, been enriched by Johnson, whom his wife backed as mayor of London when she edited London's evening newspaper and he subsequently gave her a job at City Hall as a £95,000-a-year adviser. Bower is staunchly pro-Brexit to the extent I am told it put a strain on his friendship with Max Hastings, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, who backed Remain and has since been an outspoken critic of Johnson.

Honours have previously been dished out at specific times – New Year's, the Queen's birthday, the resignation of a prime minister etc – but they can actually be issued whenever the sitting prime minister wishes. I'm told there is likely to be another list in the autumn/winter.

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There is no word, meanwhile, on the biography of Johnson that the Sunday Times' political editor Tim Shipman was believed to have been working on.

Seeing red

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The tragedy in Beirut has set Dr Richard North – an avowed Eurosceptic who was once one of Boris Johnson's Daily Telegraph colleagues – thinking. Is it really such a good thing to obsess about the removal of 'red tape'?

He points out that the last major industrial explosion on these shores took place almost half a century ago at a chemical plant close to the village of Flixborough in north Lincolnshire when 28 people were killed and 36 others seriously injured. North says our relative safety has been as a direct result of 'red tape' designed to stop such disasters, including legislation based on EU Directive 96/82/EC, the so-called Seveso III Directive, taking its name from the Seveso disaster, which occurred in 1976 in Italy. Such planning laws keep hazardous processes well-separated from residential and other vulnerable areas. 'As a society, we can consider ourselves fortunate that we are protected by 'red tape,' even if it is of EU origin,' says Dr North.

Hard times

Rishi Sunak, whose wife Akshata is the daughter of the billionaire co-founder of the digital services company Infosys, is unlikely ever to experience austerity himself.

Still, I am told the trustees of Dorneywood – Sunak's grace-and-favour residence as chancellor – are struggling during the current economic crisis. Accounts just in at the Charity Commission show that, as a result of the global pandemic, the outfit that runs the estate has seen its portfolio plummet in value to £9.4 million in April this year, a decrease of £1.4m on the year before.

The Dorneywood Trust – administered by, among others, Michael Gove – is nevertheless forking out £12,903 a month on refurbishments and repairs – £10,000 up on the year before. Heating and lighting costs are also rising to around £1,972 a month.

Missing link

There's an overdue task Carrie Symonds, pictured, might want to get around to when she heads up to Scotland for a two-week getaway with Boris Johnson and Wilfred, respectively her partner and her baby.

That's to update her LinkedIn profile which still has her listed as director of communications at the Conservative Party, a role she took up in June 2017. There is no mention of her latest venture at Oceana – a not-for-profit ocean conservation organisation. Her existing CV includes special adviser roles for Sajid Javid and John Whittingdale and a spell as 'political press officer' for the to BackBoris 2012 campaign for which she worked for six months between December 2011 and May 2012. She also notes that she worked as campaign adviser to Zac Goldsmith, who I've predicted will be made a godfather to Wilfred. The couple might also use their break to set a date for the child's christening and indeed their wedding.

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