MANDRAKE: Heywood gives posthumous verdict on Boris Johnson’s government
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TIM WALKER says the former cabinet secretary's book is set to rattle the prime minister.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the highly-regarded cabinet secretary who died in 2018 shortly after stepping down from the role, is to deliver his verdict on Boris Johnson's government posthumously.
His widow Suzanne has put the finishing touches to a manuscript he started towards the end of his life, and, with his diaries, private papers and closest aides all assisting her, she has every right to call the book What Does Jeremy Think?
Suzanne is very much her own woman which may be one factor in explaining why she was overlooked as the next chair of the Royal Opera House, where she had been doing a fine holding the fort. The job went instead to David Ross of Carphone Warehouse, a big donor to Tory party coffers.
The book is unlikely to make edifying reading for Johnson and his cohorts when the Rupert Murdoch imprint HarperCollins releases it in November. Sir Jeremy, pictured, believed passionately in preserving the independence and the integrity of the civil service. He would almost certainly not have thought very much of Dominic Cummings' part in easing Sir Mark Sedwill – his successor as cabinet secretary – out of his job.
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Mandrake has disappointing news for all those expecting Gavin Williamson to be prised from his perch as education secretary: he remains as powerful as ever.
One Westminster insider sees the peerage for the Tory MP-turned lobbyist James Wharton as evidence of this. 'This was less about Wharton being a former campaign manager to Boris Johnson than the fact he's an old buddy of Williamson,' he says. 'Williamson wanted that honour for Wharton and that's why he got it. Williamson, like Dominic Cummings, can tell Johnson to jump and he jumps.'
As a former whip, Williamson knows the secrets of all his party's key players, and, indeed, David Cameron described him admiringly in his memoirs as 'a Hoover of gossip'. It's not clear, by the way, if Wharton – who was notoriously accused of plotting to topple Theresa May as prime minister during a late-night dinner at the Colony Grill in Mayfair – will continue to be a lobbyist for Hume Brophy after he takes his seat in the Lords.
JCB – the digger manufacturers, presided over by the arch-Brexiteer Sir Anthony Bamford – has been shovelling money in David Davis's direction. This month the Tory MP has however recorded his final monthly payment of £5,000 as an 'external adviser' to the company.
Davis has been kept to the sidelines by Boris Johnson, quite possibly because Dominic Cummings reportedly considers him to be as 'thick as mince'. For all that, Davis has still been telling confidants that he believes he might yet be able to save the day for this government with his fabled 'Canada plus plus plus' trade deal. He will almost certainly be using his free time now for manoeuvres ahead of the chaos that will assuredly follow a no-deal Brexit.
Among Boris Johnson's WAGs – the wives and girlfriends – there seems, to put it mildly, to be a sense of disenchantment. The American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri told me the other day she was watching him as prime minister and 'trying to make sense of what is happening'.
Now, Petronella Wyatt – with whom Johnson had a relationship for four years – has announced she won't be voting Tory at the next election. 'Incompetence should not be rewarded,' she said. I've good memories of Petronella. There's been a tendency in some quarters to demonise the women in Johnson's life, but that's grossly unfair. They could almost all of them justly claim to have emerged from the experience as victims, rather than beneficiaries.