MANDRAKE: Peers thought of quitting over Johnson’s ‘dishonours’ list
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TIM WALKER talks of growing fond of Sir Nicholas Soames, Boris Johnson's dishonours list and reading up on the coronavirus crisis
Boris Johnson's dishonours list – Evgeny Lebedev, Jo Johnson and Ian Botham etc nominated for peerages – was greeted with dismay in the Upper House. Some decent, right-minded members considered relinquishing their titles in protest, but not, happily, Baroness Hussein-Ece,
The spirited Lib Dem peer – not someone born with a silver spoon in her mouth – tells me that she understands why feelings are running high, but believes the right thing to do is for members to stand their ground.
Mandrake predicted the peerage for Charles Moore, the former Daily Telegraph editor who has proved such an influence on Johnson. As for Philip May, I'm told he was knighted to try to make the woman we must soon address as Lady May 'a somewhat less critical backbencher'. Whether the vanquished prime minister holds her tongue remains to be seen.
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And what, meanwhile, of Paul Dacre, ever the bridesmaid, never the bride when it comes to these lists? The fiercely competitive former editor of the Daily Mail has always been conscious of the fact his predecessor, the staunchly pro-European David English, was not only knighted, but was about to receive a peerage at the time he died.
My informant can say only: 'I've no idea what's going on there, but, honestly, this was not an honours list on which it was possible to be excluded for being too toxic...'
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Boris Johnson's election guru Isaac Levido would appear to be turning his thoughts to life after Downing Street. I hear that he has rejoined the board of directors at Fleetwood Strategy, the company he co-founded in January, with his election team mate Michael Brooks and Peter Dominiczak, a former journalist.
Paperwork at Companies House shows Levido rejoined the board three months after he resigned his directorship at the company in April. By contrast, his Downing Street rival Dominic Cummings has signalled that he is bedding in at No.10 with his decision to close down his loss-making private information technology business, Dynamic Maps.
Fleetwood's website says it's in the business of 'providing insight and advice to help organisations make the right decisions on strategy, communications and messaging when it matters most.' Levido left Team Johnson after the 2019 election victory, where he was campaign chief, and then returned in March to run the communications team tasked with keeping coronavirus news on message. Levido was not exactly helped in this endeavour by Cummings with his trip to Barnard Castle at the height of lockdown.
I spent the weekend reading an embargoed copy of Dr Dominic Pimenta's Duty of Care. Welbeck Publishing releases the book next month, but I will make two predictions about it. 1.) It will be seen to be the definitive insider account of Britain's response to the coronavirus crisis. 2.) Although Pimenta deals in fact, rather than political opinion, the government will seek to rubbish the book and him.
Pimenta is an amiable, understated intensive care unit doctor who was among the first to publicly call for an early lockdown and to draw attention to the problems the NHS was facing with the supply of PPE. He tells me, ominously, that the coronavirus story is far from over.
Good knight Mandrake has grown rather fond of Sir Nicholas Soames, over a great many years. A Remainer during the EU referendum campaign, he's been a mostly moderate, sensible voice on the Tory backbenches during the various twists and turns of the subsequent Brexit saga, which led to him, in recent months, briefly having his party's whip withdrawn. He was also thoughtful and conciliatory in the row about the statues of his grandfather Sir Winston Churchill during the Black Lives Matter protests.
When I last ran across him, I had to guiltily admit that just about every piece I'd ever written about him during my whole career – I'd first interviewed him for the Brighton Argus in the 1980s – had been sarcastic and generally unpleasant. 'Thoroughly deserved, I expect,' he said, cheerfully.
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