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Mandrake: The Saudi tanks on Labour’s lawn

Labour were unable to explain why Saudia Arabia's ambassador to London was in Brighton during the party's conference.

Saudi Ambassdor to the UK Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud walks through the Central Lobbey as he attends the State Opening of Parliament. (Photo by Adrian Dennis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Labour may have taken a very principled and public stand on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, the kingdom’s ambassador to London, was, I am reliably informed, admitted into the precinct’s of the party’s conference in Brighton last week.

Khalid, pictured, married into British society – his wife is Lucy Cuthbert, the Duke of Northumberland’s niece – but it’s unsurprising, given Saudi Arabia’s obvious image problems, that no one in Labour would admit to me how he came to be there or who he met with.

Saudi Arabia has been on a concerted public relations offensive since 2018 when the American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at its consulate in Istanbul.

I’ve heard whispers that the Arabic-language arm of the BBC is, meanwhile, planning to go big on what is called an “investigation” into Saudi Arabia’s enemies, including pro-democracy activists responsible for the Arab Spring revolutions.

Several senior BBC journalists, aghast that the BBC should even consider broadcasting such a programme, are doing everything they can to thwart it.


Mandrake was startled to learn that Carrie Johnson – who chose to marry a man who wrote of homosexuals as “tank-topped bum boys” – agreed to address an LGBT event during the Conservative party conference.

Elena Bunbury, the organiser, insisted that the prime minister’s wife was committed to the cause.

She said that Carrie had even gone to the trouble of writing her own speech for the Pride drinks reception, which was well-trailed in the press.

Still, some have suspected an ulterior motive as it clashed with the Spectator’s conference party. There’s little love lost between Carrie and the magazine – it’s been consistently hostile to her and one of its writers even dismissed her before her marriage as nothing more than Boris Johnson’s “current bed-warmer” – but heaven forfend that they should have gone to such trouble just to distract from those tittle-tattlers’ jamboree.

No mates

As if facilitating the EU referendum wasn’t bad enough, David Cameron’s part in the Greensill financial scandal has turned him into such a political pariah that he’s been letting it be known he hankers after the company of even Michael Gove.

Probably it was his wife Samantha and Gove’s then wife Sarah who bonded the most, but the two men have been close since their university days. My mate Michael Cockerell wonders, however, if Cameron could ever really forgive or forget Gove’s betrayal of him during the referendum when he came out for Leave.

As Cockerell relates in his excellent book Unmasking Our Leaders, Cameron sent Gove a text making it clear he expected him to keep the faith.

“You must realise I divide the world into team players and w—–s. You’ve always been a team player. Please don’t become a w—–.”

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