MANDRAKE: The flagging Tory press and the war against Naga and Charlie
- Credit: BBC
BBC Breakfast presenters Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty want to put the controversy over Robert Jenrick's flag behind them
Although Amanda Platell is Australian, she was indignant over the weekend at the way the BBC Breakfast presenters Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty had gently teased the housing secretary Robert Jenrick about the enormous Union flag he'd had behind him during a Zoom interview.
"It was just another sickening example of how far Auntie has come adrift from us licence-fee payers who stump up for its oh-so-clever metropolitan presenters' eye-watering salaries," she harrumphed in the Daily Mail.
Platell chose not to disclose her own salary - a six-figure sum, so I'm told - nor indeed the fact she'd helped to mould the image of William Hague when he led the Tories. At one party conference Hague addressed as leader, he let it be known he didn't want to see the party faithful waving Union flags or singing Land of Hope and Glory as he felt it was too nationalistic.
I got to know Stayt and Munchetty well over a great many paper reviews over the years and it's hard to imagine two more unlikely enemies of the people.
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Still, what Platell wrote seems mild-mannered compared to the Daily Telegraph, which suggested that they were two people who "despised their own country." That seems to me to actionable, but I'm told the affable pair just want to put the whole surreal episode behind them.
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Alan Johnson's political career ended in failure when he led Labour's campaign to remain in Europe, but his literary career is now going great guns.
The former postie has found a new life as an author and has already penned his well-received memoirs. He is about to turn his talents to writing fiction with Late Train to Gypsy Hill coming out in September. "It's a thriller which involves the Russia Mafia, the FSB - that country's former KGB - and the Met police," says Johnson, who, as Labour's last home secretary, oversaw the cops and the spooks.
At least Johnson knows how to write. Attempts by Tories to pen novels lately have met with some derision. Iain Duncan Smith wrote a thriller just after being thrown out as party leader and never tried again. Ann Widdecombe had a go, too, though the very worst reviews were reserved for Nadine Dorries, now a health minister. Even the reviewer on the Daily Telegraph called The Four Streets "the worst novel I've read in ten years."
Mandrake was always dubious about the stories that Paul Dacre was going to succumb to Boris Johnson's blandishments and take over at Ofcom. It's true he covets a peerage - which the PM reportedly offered by way of an incentive - but there was no way that the broadcasting watchdog could come anywhere near to matching his humongous salary as the editor-in-chief of Lord Rothermere's newspapers.
The job requires, too, what are called ambassadorial skills and an intimate knowledge of the outfit's statutory obligations, not least in relation to online content platforms. This, I'm told, is why, six months on from the first story linking him to the job, the old boy still can't face it.
Dacre always refused to look at stories online when he edited the Daily Mail and insisted on print-outs, and, at a summer party at the turn of the millennium, he notoriously made a speech in which he declared: "I hear people saying that the internet is where our future lies, and to them I say: 'Bollocks dot com'."
Evgeny Lebedev - controversially ennobled by Boris Johnson - includes at the end of his long list of outside interests on the Lords website an outfit named Santa Eurasia Srl.
This is the holding company for Palazzo Terranova, the luxurious 17th century villa that his lordship owns in the hills near Perugia in Italy. Johnson has often enjoyed his hospitality there and the company of his eclectic friends. On at least one occasion, Johnson chose to go there alone without his close-protection officers from the Metropolitan Police.
At a dinner he attended as foreign secretary, Johnson was seated beside the glamour model Katie Price. She called Lebedev “You guv”, announced that “champagne and Pricey don’t mix,” and then, turning to Johnson, lifted her top to expose her breasts. Isn't life grand?
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