Lord Brownlow, the peer who Boris Johnson charged with setting up a trust through which anonymous donors could pay for the make-over for his Downing Street flat, cut a disgruntled figure in the House of Lords.
“He spent a lot of time moaning about the position Johnson has put him in,” whispers my mole in ermine. Few friendships with Johnson end well and I can’t see this one being the exception.”
Brownlow (pictured) may have had to chuck his own money into the Downing Street money pit, but he can at least take consolation in his personal wealth increasing by £26.5m in the 15 months to January 2021.
Figures just out show the former Tory Party vice-chairman picked up £9.5m from his firm Huntswood Associates as well as £17m from Huntswood CTC – his outsourcing and payrolls firm.
The Electoral Commission has seen three Huntswood Associates invoices relating to the refurbishment of the flat in the sum of £52,801. Brownlow personally paid a further three invoices, before Johnson finally made up the gap for the costs, which totalled £112,549.
The commission fined Tory HQ £16,250 for inaccurate reporting of Brownlow’s company donation of £67,801; as well as £1,550 for failing to keep accurate records.
Johnson was shown to have texted Brownlow, asking for more cash for the flat a year ago, which showed the PM had not been honest with Lord Geidt, his standards adviser, when he had told him he didn’t know where the funds were coming from. Johnson’s flat costs amount to more than half his annual salary as PM, but less than three days’ pay for Brownlow, who counts Prince Charles among his former business associates, but that’s another story.
I’ll miss Adam Boulton when he leaves Sky News. A decent, intelligent, independent-minded journalist, he was never afraid to give air time to a political dissident such as myself.
Just when I was wondering if I’d appear on TV ever again, my publisher rang to inform me of a startling development: GB News had inquired if I’d be willing to become a regular political commentator. The dilemma was obvious: on the one hand, the chance to preach to the unconverted, make a few quid and plug The New European, Star Turns and Bloody Difficult Women; on the other, career and social death.
A GB News producer said they’d “love” to have me and added my sparring partner would be star presenter Simon McCoy. I put it to a vote on Twitter and undertook to accept a majority verdict: almost 1,500 individuals replied: “don’t”. I trust my decision to decline wasn’t the last straw for McCoy, who resigned the following day.
Tory grandee Sir Michael Fallon and I would appear to share a hobby: frustrating the political ambitions of former Vote Leave stalwart Anna Firth. Fallon disagreed with her on Brexit, and while, as a local councillor, she’d have been a contender to succeed him in his ultra-safe Sevenoaks seat, he left it until the last moment before the 2019 election to announce he was stepping down, by which time she’d been selected to fight Canterbury.
In Canterbury, I then chucked another spanner in the works by refusing to split the opposition vote, and, as the Lib Dem candidate, threw my weight behind Labour’s Rosie Duffield. What Fallon and I can now do about Firth’s hopes in Southend West – Sir David Amess’s old seat – where she’s just been selected, I’m not sure.