Mandrake: Boris Johnson’s personal film factory is exposed
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Tim Walker's diary focuses on the astonishing 168 films Boris Johnson has commissioned - starring himself, naturally - and asks if Bernard Jenkin will turn up fully clothed at Buckingham Palace for his investiture.
Johnson's film factory exposed
After some goading from Mandrake, Boris Johnson gave up writing for the Daily Telegraph not long after he was appointed foreign secretary. His reluctance was understandable: over the course of four years, the column made him just short of £1 million. Book royalties brought in an additional £469,385.
It is, however, Have I Got News for You? that Johnson now finds he misses the most for the fun he had appearing on the show. 'Boris is at heart a showman and he feels an almost pathological need to perform,' one of his associates tells me. 'He knows that show made him and it hurts him he can't go on it any more.'
Still, Johnson, has managed to engineer a way to keep appearing on the screen, albeit on a smaller scale, and, more often than not, at the taxpayer's expense. I can disclose that he has commissioned an astonishing 168 official information films – all starring himself, needless to say – from his period as Mayor of London until today.
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The most recent offerings include a 'Hi, folks' update from the banks of the Amazon – in which he proclaimed himself to be the first foreign secretary to visit Peru in 50 years – and another in which he roped in Kevin Pietersen, the former England cricket captain, to co-star with him in a short feature that extolled the merits of our border force, which, incidentally, David Cameron had – conscious in his final days of the need to keep Britain's borders safe – been thinking about overhauling.
Although these films normally only ever end up on YouTube, Johnson – like a latter-day Norma Desmond – enjoys organising gala premieres for each. Last week, I reported how FCO staff dreaded being invited to them, but, it would appear, there may well be a few creature comforts. Buried away in the latest spending figures for his department, Johnson owns up to splashing out £1,200 at Birley's Café and Bar for catering.
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Vote Leave may still be under investigation by the Electoral Commission for potential criminal conduct, but the outfit's director Bernard Jenkin was deemed worthy of a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours for 'political and public service'.
As it happens, Sir Bernard has done pretty well recompensing himself for his 'service'. This resulted in him being ordered to pay back a record £63,250 as a result of the Daily Telegraph's parliamentary expenses investigation of almost a decade ago. Admittedly, this amount was reduced on appeal to £36,250.
The highly-strung Tory MP was furious with the Telegraph, and, at a reception not long after the story broke, pointedly refused to shake the hand of its then editor, Will Lewis. This resulted in the newspaper making repeated subsequent references to Sir Bernard's disturbing enthusiasm for naturism. Hopefully, he will be fully clothed for his investiture.
Voters go to the polls this week in the Lewisham East by-election and Mandrake hazards a guess that Labour's majority will be cut significantly. Perversely, a number of Jeremy Corbyn's backbenchers have confided in me that this is the result they want.
'We've tried unsuccessfully to apply pressure on Jeremy to moderate his position on Brexit and now we're looking to the voters to do it,' one tells me. 'Lewisham East is one of our safest seats, but it voted strongly for Remain – and sometimes, honestly, you look to your mates to give you a slap in the face when you're doing something daft.'
With a bit of encouragement from Sir Vince Cable, Corbyn finally made a brief visit to the constituency last week, when he posed for photographs with party activists in the middle of a field, well out of shouting distance from any disgruntled local Remainers (and Mandrake).
In common with a lot of Remainers, Mandrake had hoped that Amber Rudd, might have become a force for good when she was relegated to the backbenches after the Windrush scandal.
Alas, the former home secretary joined forces with Iain Duncan Smith and called on fellow Tories not to vote against Theresa May on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
No doubt this has met with the approval of Christopher Mills – the wealthy Brextremist and former UKIP official – who she says in the latest Register of Members' Interests has lately donated £10,000 to her party organisation. He has previously donated via his company, Growth Financial Services. Rudd has so far declined my requests for an audience.
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