Nick Robinson’s request to Boris Johnson to “stop talking” so that he could get a question in edgeways resulted in a spot of shock and awe from the culture minister Nadine Dorries. She let it be known that the Today show presenter “had cost the BBC a lot of money.”
This sinister threat is not the first time Dorries has reacted badly to a journalist doing his job. Seven years ago, after a Daily Telegraph reviewer had called her novel The Four Streets the worst thing he’d read in a decade, Dorries, pictured, summarily banned the paper’s diary from attending her launch party.
“Nadine has had some really rather nasty coverage in the Telegraph this week and has asked that there be no representative of the paper there tonight,” her publicist told the paper.
Dorries was routinely called “mad Nad” in the Telegraph newsroom during the years I worked there, but in more recent years their mutual fanaticism about Brexit has led to more cordial relations. When it was announced she would be taking over as culture secretary in September – a move largely greeted with dismay – the Telegraph ran a piece that praised her “rare authenticity.”
Insiders at the BBC are said to be concerned that Dorries appears unaware that the constitutional independence of the corporation means it’s inappropriate – especially as negotiations with the government about the licence fee are ongoing – to pass judgment on editorial issues.
Johnson, however, values Dorries’ loyalty: she was spotted crying after Michael Gove knifed Johnson in his first abortive attempt to run for the Tory leadership.
Lord Archer’s sniggering all but drowned me out as I made a perfectly legitimate reference to my book Star Turns on Broadcasting House on Radio 4 over the weekend.
My fellow guest on the show has, of course, always prided himself on his own considerable skills at plugging his own books. He once admitted he would cheerfully do BBC Radio Hebrides so long as they gave him a chance to namecheck his latest title.
I can vouch for that, having first met him in the 1980s when he walked into the Bournemouth Echo newsroom and insisted someone interview him about his novel Kane and Abel. He would brook no protestations from me that there was no obvious Bournemouth angle to either him or his book.
Still, I am fond of Jeffrey, who gamely attended the launch party I had for Star Turns at the ICA in London in September and I take his sniggering as a compliment: I had out-plugged the greatest plugger of them all. Will I now graciously mention the name of Jeffrey’s book Over My Dead Body?
In Budget week, Rishi Sunak has been straining to present himself as a man of the people. He claimed in a newspaper interview it was “tough” for him when his children were younger, even though he and his wife Akshata, pictured, are “supported by our family and we are not struggling.”
That is something of an understatement. The chancellor’s father-in-law is none other than N. R. Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, the Indian multinational information technology company. According to Forbes as of 2021, Narayana Murthy has a net worth of $3.6 billion, making one of India’s top 100 richest men.
Still, as I disclosed earlier this year, Digme Gyms, where Akshata is a non-executive director, claimed taxypayers’ cash under the chancellor’s scheme to furlough staff.
The company told me that Akshata, whose shares in her father’s business are worth £430m, making her one of Britain’s richest women, was not personally involved in the decision to furlough staff.