MANDRAKE: Boris Johnson hints he may be going soon

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street.

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street - Credit: Getty Images

Boris Johnson made a rare foray into the Commons tea rooms last week to calm backbenchers’ nerves about the party of law and order breaking the law. It left at least one suspecting the PM might not see out his full term of office.

“What was interesting was that to him it was all about seeing Brexit through come what may,” the backbencher tells me. “It was as if that was his only purpose in life and after January 1, 2021 his job was done.”

There’s speculation that Johnson will go soon after the transition period ends and the UK is out of the EU, which would of course spare him having to take responsibility for what then ensues.

He’s plainly lost the dressing room so far as the Tory press is concerned, with even the Spectator – the magazine he once edited – sarcastically inquiring about his whereabouts.

Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers have been similarly hostile. Over the weekend, the Times ran a piece that appeared to be making Johnson’s excuses for going before he’d even left, claiming he was finding it difficult to get by on his prime ministerial salary of £150,000.

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The Murdoch papers are likely to come behind Michael Gove as Johnson’s successor, but his closeness to Dominic Cummings would deny the party the opportunity to get rid of him and Johnson in one fell swoop. Still, as I reported last week, Gove is building up his battle chest ahead of any leadership contest: his long-time fan Lord Harris of Peckham has lately chipped in £35,000.

Ofcom threat

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Mindful no doubt that the right needs angry and unrestrained voices on the airwaves, Boris Johnson’s government would appear to have Ofcom in its sights. “Expect some easing up on the rules before too long, particularly in relation to fairness and balance,” whispers my source at the broadcasting watchdog.

Johnson has already had run-ins with Ofcom – they rejected a complaint last year that Channel 4 News should not have represented him as an ice sculpture when he failed to take part in a climate change debate – and he’s apparently eager to see challenger broadcasting outfits like Rupert Murdoch’s Times Radio and Sir Robbie Gibb’s GB News given a freer hand.

I gather Johnson is conscious of how shock jocks have an easier time of it in the States after Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission abolished the so-called ‘fairness doctrine’, which required American television and radio broadcasters to present both sides – or all sides – of any political or social issue.

Sasha: The Movie

Mandrake clearly shares with Sasha Swire the view there’s no point writing a diary unless you cause a bit of trouble every now and again. If David Cameron told her he wanted to push her into a bush and have his way with her, then I think she’s performed a useful public service in getting that into the public domain in her book, Diary of an MP’s Wife.  

The book, out this week, is expected to be a bestseller. Sasha has already registered a company called Chaffcombe as a conduit for profits. Interestingly, she says it’s involved in the business of “performing arts”, which suggests she thinks there might be a television, film or theatrical adaptation to be had out of her book in time.

Hugh’s horror

Short of Boris Johnson baring his soul to me for The New European, it’s hard to imagine a more outlandish notion than Hugh Grant giving “a VERY candid” interview to the Daily Mail.

Grant has made no secret of his disdain for the paper over the years and was aghast to see his picture on the front page of its magazine, a two-page “interview” with him inside and a page three piece in the main paper lifting its key news lines. Its journalist Gabrielle Donnelly attributed her quotes with the words: “Hugh tells me when we meet in New York.”

Grant says he was “astonished and revolted” with what the paper had done. He said it appeared to have “cobbled together” some quotes he gave at a press conference for international journalists in New York back in January – when he says no journalist identified him or herself as being from the Mail.

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