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Farage still thinks he’s the star of the show

The latest scandals and gossip from Westminster and Fleet Street

Nigel Farage and Arron Banks (right) celebrate at a Leave.EU referendum party on June 24 2016. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP

Even if no mainstream broadcaster wanted to interview Donald Trump on his “no-hostile-questions” terms, Nigel Farage now sees himself as cock-of-the-walk at GB News after the disgraced former president was finally reduced to talking to him.

Mandrake hears that this has only added to Farage’s sense of resentment that GB News does not remunerate him more handsomely. His earnings are believed to pale in comparison with those of Jacob Rees-Mogg – earning £802 an hour – and Lee Anderson, the deputy Tory chair, who will earn £100,000 a year as an occasional presenter.

“There have been various regimes at the station and little if any logic or conformity applied when it comes to how the people who’ve been sporadically taken on are paid,” one insider at the minority interest station says. “As a consequence, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes sniping about pay and some understandable senses of grievance.”

The station may lately have reported a £30.7m annual loss, but also has serving MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies on its books. It is paying handsomely for the services of Brexiteer journalists like Dan Wootton and Camilla Tominey, and recently forked out £1,000 for an interview in which former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng refused to apologise for rising mortgage rates, saying “I’m not in the business of apologising for everything.”

Still, Farage isn’t exactly on his uppers. He channels his earnings through a company called Thorn In The Side, which, as of May last year, held £1,147,065 and made a profit for the year of £480,536.

After Mandrake revealed in January that Mohamed Mansour was involved in trading with Russia – and, for good measure, the Sunday Mirror “revealed” it again some weeks afterwards – Rishi Sunak’s election fundraiser has finally announced he is going to be stopping all business dealings in Russia.

The website for his UK company, Unatrac, has lately reported: “The operations of Mantrac’s subsidiary company in Russia, Mantrac Vostok Limited, have been scaled back significantly, and, in compliance with applicable law, we are now in the process of suspending all business activities in Russia.”

Unatrac, set up in the UK in 1997, has donated £606,000 to the Conservative Party and is also part of the Mantrac Group – founded by Mansour’s father 60 years ago in Egypt. Mansour, a former minister in Hosni Mubarak’s government, began working for Sunak in December as senior treasurer, with a key fundraising role. 

His impact on party financing will be revealed in June with a first-quarter update from the Electoral Commission. In the meantime, full-year figures for 2022 reveal Labour raised £300,000 more from donors than the Tories – £5m to £4.7m, with Labour £2m ahead when short monies are factored in.

Boris Johnson’s bosses at the Harry Walker Agency are definitely taking their pound of flesh from their most notorious speaker. An update to the register of members’ interests shows they have taken a £550,000 cut from the £2.5m they advanced to Johnson in January. This has meant Johnson’s earnings have gone down from £766,000 to £216,000 for the speaking engagements he undertook for the agency in March and April in London, Pennsylvania and Lagos.

The reduced fee is still substantial – working out at almost £8,000 an hour, a sum the Johnsons could only have dreamt about in his cash-strapped days in Downing Street. His new-found riches – running at £4.6m and counting – still haven’t persuaded him to give up the free accommodation the JCB heir, Lord Bamford, provides for him and his wife, Carrie.

Yet it is not all joy in Johnsonland. If the Big Dog looked even more broken and dishevelled than usual at the coronation, it may have been because the event – dominating the media for days – took all the wind out the sails of the madcap campaign to reinstate him as prime minister.

As the Tory wipe-out in the local election results started to become clear, Lord Cruddas, the boss of the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), the eccentric little fan club he set up for Johnson to champion his return to office, went into action. Cruddas moaned on Twitter that it was all down to the 1922 Committee and Tory MPs “installing a leader rejected by the members”. He also said the Tory grassroots “don’t like treachery”.

David Campbell Bannerman, another member of the CDO, then weighed in, saying Johnson had “turned the locals disaster of May 2019 under May into the triumph of an 80-seat majority in December 2019”.

It was all, however, to no avail with even the Mail on Sunday – the one-time Johnson fanzine that had long trailed the local election results as the moment when Johnson’s powers would be exalted – deciding instead to focus on Harry-bashing rather than bigging up their former hero.

The CDO is a strange outfit, with a desultory following on Twitter (around 2,500, and following more than 1,000). It is presided over by a motley group of individuals who include, apart from Cruddas and Campbell Bannerman, one Alex Story, who identifies himself on their website as a “political commentator”, but elsewhere states he is also a senior manager at a City brokerage, where he works closely with financial institutions.

A failed Tory parliamentary candidate, Story’s political commentating is quite something. Admonishing the Tories who had removed Johnson from office, he wrote they had done something “very much like peeing down your own trouser leg to keep warm. As you do the deed and the effusion is in full flow, for a split second you can just about convince yourself that you succeeded in raising the temperature.

“Then, as your soiled trousers stiffen, the sense of instant gratification gives way to one of eternal shame. That is currently what is being felt by a great many Conservative politicians…”

One wouldn’t advise him to give up the day job.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, a great many people like me joined the Lib Dems as it was the only mainstream party in England that was unequivocally opposed to Brexit. That’s almost certainly why the membership – 79,507 in 2016 – soared to 103,300 the following year.

Since Sir Ed Davey took charge and announced that the party was abandoning its policy of pushing for the UK to rejoin the EU, a lot of members gave up on the party and the membership is now back to around 74,000.

Still, support for Brexit is now falling dramatically – a recent Omnisis poll showed that 63% wanted the UK to rejoin the EU, against 37% who wanted it to stay out – but there is no political organisation that can offer them a home. I suggest people in this growing demographic consider joining the EU Movement UK, where Lord Heseltine serves as patron. It has a spirited new chair in Dr Mike Galsworthy who says that barely a month since he took charge, membership has risen from 17,500 to 19,000. The more members it has, the more clout.

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