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David Cameron’s having second thoughts

The former prime minister’s return to frontline politics hasn’t gone quite as he expected

Britain's new Foreign Secretary, former Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at Downing Street ahead of the Cabinet Meeting. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Very much Rishi Sunak’s second choice as foreign secretary – I’m reliably informed he had first asked William Hague – David Cameron is already wondering if his return to frontline politics was such a good idea.

“A lot of the problem is Rishi has no real interest in foreign affairs, and, to the extent he does, he often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with David,” one Whitehall insider tells me. “The PM’s support for Israel, for instance, is unqualified, whereas David wants to see the country keep to international law and allow in more humanitarian aid.”

He added that their meetings – increasingly few and far between – are strained. “David is the prefect who used to be head boy and that’s not an easy role to play. He is also, of course, an Etonian and Rishi a Wykehamist, so there is all of that public school rivalry going on under the surface.”

He believed the peerage was the sole motivation for Cameron taking the job, and, now that he has got it, that it was by “no means inconceivable” he would walk away from government before the election. “I reckon he’s impatient to get back to making what money he can in the private sector and why hang on anyway just to take orders from Rishi and be associated with the humiliating electoral wipe-out heading their way?”

As with so many issues, Sunak no doubt sees the Israel-Palestine conflict very much through the prism of Infosys, the IT conglomerate co-founded by his billionaire father-in-law, Narayana Murthy. The company has extensive business interests in Israel, and, until recently, had on its board Uri Levine, a veteran of Unit 8200, an elite Israeli army cyber warfare division.

After I disclosed how Dominic Cummings was struggling to make the kind of money a lot of his former Downing Street colleagues are raking in – Siwah, his technology consultancy, has netted only £84,287 in earnings since he founded it two years ago – he is now setting his heart on a political comeback with his unimaginatively named Startup Party.

I am afraid what the visually challenged spin doctor has to say on the subject is not very grammatical, but I will quote directly what he has told his remaining disciples online: 

“I think I’ve found a way forward so we can build in 2024 to prepare for the extremely likely political opportunity in 2025 when: people are even more depressed with politics than they are today and it’s obvious to millions both parties simultaneously are rotten to their cores (Tories have another clown leader and Starmer is obviously failing in No10) and they’re desperate for some way out of the current equilibrium of spreading disintegration and Insider delusions, and a subset of elites, already today desperate for something new but resigned to watching what happens with Starmer, look at the farce and are prepared to defect from Insider-world to build an alliance with voters…”

There is more, but you get the idea. What Cummings seems not to appreciate is how, after coming up with the slogan “take back control”, he’s now lost it completely.

Sir Ed Davey may not yet be through all the opprobrium for his part in the Post Office scandal, with his appearance before Sir Wyn Williams’ ongoing public inquiry expected in the spring. I am told long periods of time in the Lib Dem leader’s diary over the next few weeks have been blocked off for prepping meetings with lawyers, Mark Pack, the party president, and Olly Grender, its communications chief.

“The initial PR strategy was for Ed not to get into detail or apologise, but repeat ad nauseam that he had been lied to ‘on an industrial scale’ by Post Office executives,” one party insider tells me. “Sir Wyn is going to want him to go a lot further than that and say who these Post Office executives were and has he any evidence of these lies in the form of emails or correspondence?”

While the Mail on Sunday made much over the weekend of how Prince Harry had abandoned his libel action over a story they had run about his security arrangements, there was little rejoicing among the rank-and-file at the paper’s Kensington headquarters.

“We’ve won a battle but not the war, as we still have the privacy case Harry, Elton John and Stephen Lawrence’s mum, Doreen Lawrence, is bringing against us coming up, and that’s if we are even still around to see it,” my disgruntled mole in the newsroom tells me. “There are rumours of an imminent announcement of still more redundancies here.”

The Mail owner Lord Rothermere’s bid for the Daily Telegraph is on hold as the controversial Abu Dhabi bid for the paper goes through the regulatory hurdles, and it has paused, in effect, his planned reshuffle of senior executives. Chris Evans, the Telegraph editor, has come out against the Abu Dhabi bid, which would almost certainly mean – if it were to succeed – his return to the Mail stable, either as editor of the daily or the Mail on Sunday.

In the run-up to the last general election, I recall Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, telling me that he and Jeremy Corbyn, then the Labour leader, were very much “at odds” when it came to Brexit.

Fast forward to today, and Khan appears to be equally at odds with Sir Keir Starmer, having gone so far as to say the party has an omertà on the issue under his leadership. Khan is representing London – a city that of course came out strongly for Remain – but also, I am told, he’s convinced that Labour beginning an honest and open conversation about Brexit could only possibly benefit Labour electorally and damage the Tories.

How Starmer responds will be interesting, but I am told Khan won’t let this one go. That he’s passionate on the issue is not in doubt. When I asked him in 2019 if he’d campaign in any second referendum against Brexit, he said with real conviction that he would. “It would be a fight that I would give everything I have to win because it will define us as a people,” he said. 

A highly remunerative fire sale of assets and/or writing off of loans seems to be behind the near-£1m profit that Akshata Murty has just declared for Catamaran Ventures, the investment vehicle she has chosen to put into liquidation. In its final year of trading, the outfit set up by the prime minister’s wife in 2013 – and that Rishi Sunak himself was involved with for its first two years – returned a £785,882 profit.

Catamaran had a singular flair for backing ventures that subsequently went bust, among them Lava Club Mayfair, Mrs Wordsmith, The New Craftsmen and Digme Fitness, where Murty also acted as a director. That one went under owing £415,000 in VAT. Catamaran made a first trading loss at £28,343 in 2013, was £157,086 in the red by 2015, made a £340,000 profit in 2017 and then it went back in the red again.

The insolvencies set the taxpayer back £1m in unpaid taxes; needless to say, there is no question of the billionheiress considering paying it back.

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