MANDRAKE: Tory donors flee to Cyprus to retain links to the EU
Rich Tory donors buy Cypriot citizenship to retain EU links, Amber Rudd sets up her own company – and why won't Sir Keir Starmer talk to me?
Embarrassingly for Boris Johnson as he sets about getting Brexit "done", Cyprus has come to have a special allure for some former and current Conservative Party donors precisely because it's an EU member state.
Alan Howard, one of Britain's best-known hedge fund managers; together with Jeremy Isaacs, the former head of Lehman Brothers Europe; and, it has been reported, the business tycoon David 'Spotty' Rowland, once (fleetingly) appointed Tory Party treasurer by David Cameron, have all applied to the island for second passports to retain their links to the EU.
According to the Electoral Commission, Howard donated at least £129,000 to the Tories personally and through his company between 2005 and 2009; Isaacs made personal and corporate donations amounting to £626,500; and Rowland around £6.5 million since 2001, £854,500 of it since the Brexit vote. Cypriot citizenship costs a minimum of two million euros of which at least 500,000 euros must be permanently invested on the island.
A lot of Brexit backers have already skedaddled, following the example of Sir James Dyson, now keeping abreast of developments from his £43m penthouse in Singapore. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain's richest man, is off to Monaco.
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Johnson cheerleader Terry Smith has been residing on Mauritius since 2017. It offers a favourable tax regime, with no inheritance or capital gains tax and a maximum income tax rate of 15%. His Fundsmith outfit has shifted £2.3bn worth of client assets into a Luxembourg SICAV investment scheme as part of its Brexit contingency planning.
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I didn't happen to bump into Sir Keir Starmer when we both took turns on BBC Breakfast over the weekend, but I'd have given him an earful if I had. There he was telling the show's viewers he wanted to reach out to everyone as he sought to be elected as Labour's leader, when, almost two weeks on, he's still to say whether or not he'll be willing to grant me an interview for this great newspaper.
It's true I've not always been Sir Keir's loudest cheerleader - anyone who purports to have been the shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union for more than three years clearly has a lot to answer for - but I'd say he's probably the least bad option to take over from Jeremy Corbyn. If he gets the gig, Sir Keir's first priority should be building an effective alliance of parties opposed to Brexit and Boris Johnson's hard right ideology. I hear of overtures already being made towards him.
Since storming out of Boris Johnson's government - she accused the PM of mounting "an assault on decency and democracy" - Amber Rudd has wasted no time in finding gainful employment.
Documents filed at Companies House show that on November 6 last year - the day the former work and pension secretary stepped down as an MP - she set up a company concerned with "management consultancy activities other than financial management". Pretentiously, she's called it 'Amber's Office'. No word as yet from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments about what they make of this.
Britt Ekland makes a welcome return to these shores in The Cat and the Canary, which has just opened at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. She'd sooner however divulge the identity of the murderer in the old whodunnit than say a word about Brexit.
"I'm just an actress so what do I know, but I guess we all get nostalgic as we get older," she tells me. "I see a lot of people saying what a great time it was creatively for Britain in the 60s and early 70s before the country joined the EU, but the country will always be a great creative hub. A lot of us look back to those times with affection just because we were younger then."
The former wife of Peter Sellers spent Christmas with most of the late actor's clan, but she resides mostly in Los Angeles. I'm too much of a gentleman to divulge her age, but when I inquire about the secret to her eternal beauty, she says simply: "Good food and lots of make-up."