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Could Kuenssberg be getting her Sunday morning lie-ins back?

The BBC presenter’s flagship weekend politics show faces a doubtful future

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Routinely accused of being too well-disposed – if not ingratiating – to the Tory high command, Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday morning politics show faces a doubtful future, assuming Labour gets into government.

“The show has always been a disappointment in terms of viewing figures – never getting anywhere near the two million mark that Laura’s predecessor Andrew Marr averaged – but that could be overlooked while the Tories were in office and the corporation had to find a way of working with them,” one BBC staffer tells Mandrake. “Laura’s fundamental problem is she has never really had a power base here and I can’t think of any senior executive who will be willing to fight her corner once the new realpolitik kicks in.”

Kuenssberg, alongside Clive Myrie, will front the BBC’s election night coverage, breaking the tradition of a single star presenter that viewers became accustomed to – with David Dimbleby for decades and then, after 2019, Huw Edwards. Private research undertaken by the corporation is understood to have shown that Myrie is far more popular with viewers than Kuenssberg, and so my informant tells me he will be the effective lead presenter on election night.

“I doubt Laura is happy about this, not least because Chris Mason, who succeeded her as BBC political editor, will also be in the studio and there is inevitably a bit of additional tension there, too,” they add. “After a tricky start, when he was widely seen to be too gauche, Chris has found a following and earned his stripes, breaking the first Tory betting story.”

What is behind the rift between the right wing, migrant-baiting Mail newspapers and the right wing, migrant-baiting Nigel Farage? After the Mail on Sunday led with Volodymyr Zelensky’s criticism of the Reform leader for saying that the west had pressured Vladimir Putin into invading Ukraine, Farage accused them of “collaborating with the Kremlin to protect the dying Conservative Party”.

Reform’s forgotten man Richard Tice then weighed in to call the Mail a “clear and present danger to our national interest”, while his journalist partner Isabel Oakeshott moaned on Twitter that the “Mail has been hostile [to Farage] for months.”

“Lord Rothermere is taking back control from his editors,” one Mail hireling tells me in explanation. “After seeing his papers back one loser after another in Brexit, May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak, his lordship has twigged the endgame could all too easily be Farage leading the Conservative Party and total appeasement of Putin. Rothermere has seen the future and he doesn’t like the look of it.”

Boris Johnson’s failure to tackle the housing crisis when he was prime minister is coming back to haunt him. South Oxfordshire District Council has just decided to shatter his rural idyll by approving plans to build 20 new “affordable” homes close to his Grade II-listed country mansion.

“There’s concern locally at the noise and disruption this will cause, but Johnson and his wife and family aren’t likely to be massively affected as they seem to be abroad most of the time,” one near neighbour of Johnson tells me. “After just getting back from Sardinia, they’ve just set off once again for sunnier climes and aren’t expected back until around election day.”

The former PM and his family moved into the nine-bedroomed Brightwell Manor last year after negotiating a £250,000 discount on the £4m price tag. Land Registry ownership records list no loans on the property, scarcely a surprise given how Johnson’s earnings are believed to have shot up since he left parliament in disgrace. His memoirs, now scheduled for publication in October, alone secured him a £500,000 advance.

Often dilatory about declaring outside earnings when he was an MP, he no longer has to bother at all. I gather it’s the requirement to declare them as a member of the Lords – along with his Norma Desmond-like conviction that he will one day make a return to high office – that has so far made him hesitant about accepting a peerage, although Carrie hopes one day to be addressed as Lady Johnson.

Although a British newspaper once investigated one of its own columnists – a serving diarist on the Mail on Sunday was startled to find himself the subject of a double-page investigation – and Victoria Derbyshire looked into internal complaints about her BBC colleague Huw Edwards ahead of the Sun’s disclosures, it’s inconceivable that journalists working for a British media organisation would ever have the chutzpah to turn the tables on their own top brass.

The Washington Post is, however, now in the midst of a major investigation into its own publisher and CEO Sir William Lewis on both sides of the Atlantic, and I know of significant players who have been approached.

Lewis has become embroiled in High Court allegations that he was involved in illegal activities during his period working for Rupert Murdoch – which he disputes – and it has since been claimed that as Boris Johnson’s adviser he told him to “clean up” his phone messages as Partygate escalated.

The decision of Lewis’s one-time Daily Telegraph colleague Rob Winnett not to take him up on his offer to edit the Washington Post – after the paper’s journalists made allegations about his own journalistic conduct – has added to its owner Jeff Bezos’s woes and must be making him wonder how he can rid himself of his turbulent hireling.

With the Washington Post losing tens of million dollars a year, all it has left is its reputation and Lewis is damaging it each day he remains in office. The problem Bezos has is that he hired Lewis on a seven-year contract, and, if it’s true (and Lewis disputes it) that he’s on $5m that will make it expensive and legally complicated to cut him loose.

In this election, the must-have fashion accessory for candidates is a filmed celebrity endorsement for social media. Rupert Everett has come out for James Bagge, an independent running for South West Norfolk, and Steve Coogan for the Lib Dem Mike Martin in Tunbridge Wells (Coogan is also backing, for the purposes of tactical voting, Alison Bennett in Mid Sussex and James MacCreary in Lewes).

More surprisingly, on the face of it, Bob Geldof has lately voiced his support for Andrew Mitchell, the Tory candidate for Sutton Coldfield. The driving force behind Band Aid, which raised millions for famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s, was quick to stress he was not “a party political person,” but that he was backing Mitchell because of his fundamental decency and ability – unlike what he called so many “tiresome wankers” in politics – to get things done.

Geldof was impressed with what Mitchell achieved during his time as international development secretary, which was when I also got to know him. By sheer force of personality, he made PM David Cameron care about people who were suffering overseas, and it’s striking, without Mitchell by his side, how Cameron’s initial horror about Gaza has now given way to complacency.

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