MANDRAKE: Former Today editor takes on Andrew Neil

Andrew Neil arriving at BBC Broadcasting House. Picture: PA/Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment.

Andrew Neil arriving at BBC Broadcasting House. Picture: PA/Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: EMPICS Entertainment

It’s becoming difficult to throw a stone these days without hitting someone setting up a right wing broadcasting outfit. Mandrake can disclose that Sarah Sands – having lately relinquished the editorship of the Today programme – is following in the footsteps of former Corporation colleagues Andrew Neil and Sir Robbie Gibb and has established an outfit called Home Service Broadcasting.

An old mate and former Daily Telegraph colleague of Boris Johnson, Sands has registered the business at Companies House and says it will be involved with “radio broadcasting” and “television programming and broadcasting”.

Sands has also set up a business called Platonist which is engaged in “public relations and communications activities, management consultancy and media representation services, among others”. The two businesses were registered in March – not long after Sands announced her resignation as editor of Today – and based at her six-bedroom country home near King’s Lynn in Norfolk.

Sands, 59, is clearly feeling confident financially as she’s recently had a ‘natural swimming pool’ installed at the property. She bought the property with Kim Fletcher, her husband, in July 2011 for £726,000. She is also busying herself with the chairmanship of Bright Blue, an “independent think tank for liberal conservatism”, where Rachel Johnson also sits as a director, and is a board member of Index on Censorship.

Friendly fire


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I came to have a lot of respect for the Liberal Democrats in Canterbury during my brief time as their parliamentary candidate. I saw them as bellwether members: if I could keep them happy, I figured I was being true to Lib Dem values. That was why I stood down as their candidate as I knew – as they mostly did – that I’d otherwise divide the Remain vote, unseat the incumbent pro-EU Labour MP and let in an avowed Tory Brextremist.

Almost a year on from that drama, the local association is again in shock. Martin Roche, the party’s local chairman, has stepped down and quit the party. The well-regarded Roche is maintaining a diplomatic silence, but a friend of his tells me: “Martin was dismayed when Ed Davey said that talk of rejoining the EU was “for the birds”. The motion at the Lib Dem conference to make rejoining something they’d be interested in “only in the longer term” did little to placate him.

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“He’s also a proud Scot and feels Davey’s outright rejection of a second Scottish independence referendum is naive, illiberal and counter-productive. It’s quite an achievement to antagonise someone like Martin, but Davey’s managed it.”

Two-parter

Boris Johnson publishes his so-called coronavirus honours list on Saturday to honour the health professionals who went over and above the call of duty in fighting the virus. Needless to say, he’s made a Horlicks of it. 

His advisers were anxious that he should be seen to acknowledge as many BAME workers as possible as they suffered the highest mortality rates. Ideally, too, they wanted more nurses on the list rather than better-remunerated doctors and scientists. “Obviously this has meant that some individuals, who did extraordinary work and made great sacrifices, have had to be left out,” says my man in Whitehall. “So now it’s been decided there’ll have to be a second coronavirus honours list in the New Year”. There would be no messing about if it was a coronavirus dishonours list as the recipients would be obvious. Dominic Cummings would, of course, head it. 

Inspiration

Elliott Hasler may only be 19 and the youngest director in the country – maybe the world – but he already has six films to his credit and is being talked about as the next Steven Spielberg.

His glossy and assured film The Long Road Home – about his great grandfather’s wartime experiences – is released on Sky Box Office, Amazon iTunes and on DVD on October 26. “I called in a lot of favours and managed to do it for £3,000,” says Elliott, who’s also managing to study history at Exeter University. “It’s a bleak time for my generation with the coronavirus and Brexit, but I just thought, rather than dwelling on that, I’d get on and realise my dreams.”

His next film, Vindication Swim, about the first English woman to swim the Channel, is already in production.
 

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