Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

Isaac Levido faces the wrath of Downing Street

The Australian strategist has burned through any credit he had with the prime minister

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

As the search for Tory scapegoats begins, knives are out for the party’s election strategist Isaac Levido. The Australian, noted for his dreaded 6 am meetings, is seen to have burned through any credit he built up when he opposed Rishi Sunak’s disastrous plan for a snap election after a series of botched campaign events and increasingly wild and desperate messaging in the run-up to July 4.

Now even Levido’s habit of giving a cuddly toy to star performers in the campaign – in honour of his Antipodean roots, the gifts have included kiwis, kangaroos, koalas and even an echidna – is being ridiculed.

“The problem is that we have no star performers this time,” moans a CCHQ source. “If we did, a cuddly dodo or dead duck would seem appropriate.”

Tory insiders are mystified too as to why, with traditional supporters defecting to Reform, led by Putin apologist Nigel Farage, the party did not make more of apparent Russian attempts to influence the election.

With the mainstream UK media seemingly disinterested, both the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Australia’s ABC network uncovered Facebook pages spreading Kremlin talking points, with some posting in support of Farage’s party. These hailed him as “the people’s champion” and used incendiary computer-generated images of vast numbers of people arriving in boats on Britain’s coast. 

The pages have published dozens of unlabelled political adverts, many pushing an anti-Ukraine agenda, that managed to evade the platform’s advertising rules, which state that “any advertisements about “social issues, elections or politics” to be accompanied by a disclaimer showing who paid for it.

Experts say they bear all the hallmarks of a classic Russian influence operation.

Speaking of Russia and Reform, the campaign group Led By Donkeys produced the best stunt of the election when a banner showing Vladimir Putin giving the thumbs-up with the message “I ❤️Nigel” was automatically unfurled behind Nigel Farage at a rally at the Columbine Centre in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.

Farage humourlessly said “someone at the Columbine Centre needs to get the sack,” but parties generally take care of their own security – Labour and the Tories failing to do so during Keir Starmer’s glitterbombing in Liverpool last year and the P45 that a comedian presented to Theresa May during the 2017 Tory conference both spring to mind.

Led By Donkeys are coy about how they did it but confirmed to me their operative was inside the centre when it was unfurled. “It was a challenge, but we did manage to activate the strategically positioned remote-controlled Putin banner from inside the hall,” the organisation tells me. For operational reasons, he was reluctant to go into further detail. 

Now all but indistinguishable from the Tory Party, the Daily Mail has chosen this moment to go into a meltdown all of its own. Its online bridgehead in New York – what the Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere had once regarded as the business’s best hope of maintaining income and influence – has become a laughing stock with the abrupt and still unexplained departure of its former boss Gerard Greaves only the latest in a long succession of crises for its newsroom.

The influential Hollywood Reporter, in a prominent piece last week, posed the rhetorical question “Are the wheels falling off the Daily Mail?” and highlighted how, even before Greaves’ departure, the US website had seen a succession of high-profile exits. An unnamed employee was quoted as saying: “This place is completely f—-d, there is zero leadership coming from London, and they have destroyed the potential we had here in the US.” 

The piece points, too, to inappropriate workplace behaviour, an apparent lack of concern for staff welfare and conditions by the operation’s London parent company and extortionate executive expenses claims. 

With an increasing sense of resentment locally about how able American journalists were being passed over for jobs by Brits imported from the Mail’s London headquarters, Nick Pyke, one of the few survivors of the cull of Mail on Sunday journalists, is being flown over to try to restore some degree of order before Katie Davies, poached after being the US editor of the Times and Sunday Times, succeeds Greaves as head of the NYC operation this autumn. 

Unsurprisingly, Rothermere is looking back with nostalgia to the days when his father, Vere, with his editor-in-chief Sir David English, ran the business with such a sureness of touch. Geordie Greig, the former Daily Mail editor, picked up on this in his Hugh Cudlipp Lecture at the London Press Club last week when he talked of how English had turned the Mail into “one of the most brilliant and successful newspapers of all time,” and added, too, how he had the political acumen to see that the paper then took “a patriotic pro-European stance.” 

The current Lord Rothermere and his editor-in-chief Paul Dacre are effectively shackled together until the conclusion of the court case brought against the Mail by Prince Harry, Elton John and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, along with others, next year. 

Among actors, it was once called DCOL – Doesn’t Count On Location – which means, when working abroad, it was permissible to have the occasional extra-marital affair – but, across the Atlantic, it now seems to be more the preserve of British journalists.

Mandrake hears allegations of shenanigans at the Mail newsroom in New York are not isolated and have spread to another American city, where a British journalist is said to have once got home to find that his bed-hopping had so enraged his wife she had chucked all his clothes out of the window and barred him from re-entering the marital home.

Is it any wonder British journalists are now held in such low esteem by their American counterparts?

Bloomsbury has come up with a spirited single-finger response to its Rupert Murdoch-owned rival William Collins releasing Boris Johnson’s memoirs, Unleashed, on October 10. 

The publishing house is putting a book called Unhinged on sale the same day. It’s by Ian Martin, who wrote for the television series The Thick of It and Veep and co-wrote The Death of Stalin for Armando Iannucci. Bloomsbury are marketing it as “the perfect, parody Christmas gift book for that selfish egomaniac in your life,” and say it will examine, among other aspects of Johnson’s character, how he managed to “trivialise everything with buffoonery.”

The publication date notwithstanding, Johnson has still to deliver his own manuscript to his publishers who are anxious to see it as soon as possible to try to fact-check it and have their lawyers go over it for potential libel issues. The Times and Sunday Times are taking it for granted they will get first dibs at serialisation rights, but executives at the Daily Mail – who pay Johnson handsomely to provide them with singularly boring columns – would have good reason to feel hard done by if they don’t get it. 

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

See inside the OK.. now get on with it edition

Image: TNE

Germansplaining: Long live Gelsenkirchen

The Ruhrgebiet, Germany’s most densely populated region, is often seen as dirty and decrepit, but it has a rich history and an underrated charm

Image: TNE

Lie of the Week: “Labour’s national ULEZ: coming to a road near you this July”