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Rats in a Sack: Is Stanley Johnson a Rejoiner?

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Lee Anderson, Ukip, Chris Heaton-Harris and more

Stanley Johnson in a 'Remain in the EU for nature' t-shirt, 2016 (Photo by Mary Turner/Getty Images)

While Boris Johnson used the fourth anniversary of Britain’s official departure from the EU to trot out his usual guff – “With those Brexit freedoms we have introduced improved standards for animal welfare” – Johnson père takes a very different view.

Stanley Johnson has been spotted – much to many people’s surprise – attending online meetings of the London regional branch of the European Movement, which campaigns for the UK to rejoin the EU. “He’s very keen to get back into EU environmental standards,” says a member who attended one. Stanley, 83, is obviously much more IT-savvy than his son, who required very special one-on-one technology lessons while London mayor.

In his December column for the Mansfield and Ashfield Chad, Lee Anderson, local MP, former Tory deputy chair and self-appointed spokesman for the entire working class, ruminated on the importance of speaking about men’s mental health.

“We all have moments where we suffer with our mental health, but I have become increasingly aware over the last year how fragile a topic this is amongst men,” he wrote. “I am the first to admit that mental health is not something that most men feel comfortable speaking about, however we face a growing problem, given that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Men’s mental health is an issue I am now passionate about.”

And how did Anderson respond this week when Gary Lineker tweeted his defence of a Labour MP suspended for comments on the Gaza conflict?

“I genuinely fear for Mr Lineker’s mental health as in my opinion his recent social media contributions are a cry for help,” he told the ever-loyal Daily Express. The sooner the men in white coats come for him the better. That should save the TV licence payer a few bob.” [Note to younger readers: men in white coats were people employed by the NHS in the pre-Conservative days.]

To Ukip, who unaccountably still exist (albeit without a single elected representative anywhere) and who have managed to lose both their leader and deputy leader within a matter of weeks.

First Neil Hamilton, the disgraced former Tory minister, quit as leader ostensibly “to enjoy more time with his family” (Hamilton has no children and he and wife Christine are rarely seen without each other anyway). Ukip watchers say Hamilton was acting as a drag on attempts to unite with fellow hard-right parties.

Now his deputy, Rebecca Jane has gone. Jane is a former professional Marilyn Monroe lookalike who has run a detective agency for women suspecting their husbands of cheating and taken part in series 18 of Big Brother, and who now juggles mental health work with GB News appearances.

She announced her departure with a scathing Twitter/X post, saying: “UKIP is dead. They’ve have [sic] had NO applications to be leader, so they need a distraction. The leadership campaign is a farce and Lois [Perry, leadership favourite] is being parachuted in, because of the chairman’s personal desires. It’s not a democracy, it’s one man telling people what to do.” She also suggested her own being “planted” as deputy leader by chairman Ben Walker was, ahem, for less than chivalrous reasons.

Coincidentally, Walker contacted your correspondent last month, having belatedly discovered an article charting the party’s demise in The New European last year. “It’s ‘quite’ crap and doesn’t really reflect the truth,” he wrote. Would you like to discuss and maybe publish more facts?”. Sure thing, Benny boy! Will this do?

Tory MP Flick Drummond, whose Meon Valley constituency will be scrapped at the general election, is to stand in Winchester, having suffered the ignominy of being beaten by Suella Braverman in the race to secure Fareham and Waterlooville, which covers the bulk of her current seat.

Her start has not been great. The inevitable fake local newspaper shoved through letterboxes bears the huge front-page headline ‘Flick did not vote to put sewage into our rivers’ – conventional political wisdom being that it’s not great to plant an idea in voters’ minds which wasn’t already there. And inside she passes on her homespun wisdom on avoiding further sewage: “It would help if people did not discharge wastewater – such as baths, flushing loos, even using machines – during heavy downpours.” What a policy to tackle the sewage crisis: don’t flush the loo if it’s raining.

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris’ trumpeting of his deal with the DUP – which will allow the party to formally return to the Stormont chamber to argue about precisely which roads they may or may not want to march down – reminded your correspondent of the hardline Brexiteer’s still-unpublished book.

In 2017 Heaton-Harris, then a lowly Tory whip, wrote to university vice-chancellors across the UK asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching European affairs “with particular reference to Brexit”. In his letter he asked for “a copy of the syllabus” and any online lectures on Brexit.

After being accused of “McCarthyite” tactics by academics who said it was an assault on free speech Heaton-Harris was defended by colleagues who said it was, in fact, research for a book he was writing.

It would be the MP’s first book since 2012’s Together Against Wind: A Step by Step Guide on Opposing a Wind Farm in Your Area, currently available for £2.23 on Amazon. And yet, six-and-a-half-years on, the book has yet to be published or indeed appear on any publisher’s forthcoming lists. That’s a gestation period only rivalled by Boris Johnson’s biography of Shakespeare (currently nine years in the writing).

RIP Prince John Zylinski, whose death on January 3 has just been reported. Zylinski, a Polish businessman (born in Lewisham) offered to settle the Brexit question once and for all in 2015, challenging Nigel Farage to a duel using the sword his father used in a cavalry charge in 1939. “Enough is enough, Mr Farage,” the aristocrat said, clutching his sabre as he stared into a camera. “I’d like us to meet in Hyde Park one morning, with our swords, and resolve this matter.” Farage ducked the challenge, saying he didn’t have a sword. Which, given he spent much of his I’m A Celebrity… stint joshing about the small size of his penis, may or may not have been a euphemism.

The outbreaks of tiny harps this week was caused by George Freeman, the former science minister whose resignation in November, he said, was due to him not being able to afford his mortgage on his £118,300 salary.

In a blog post, Freeman wrote: “My mortgage rises this month from £800pcm to £2,000, which I simply couldn’t afford to pay on a ministerial salary.”

On behalf of New European readers your correspondent texted Freeman to ask if a GoFundMe or JustGiving site had been set up to allow people to contribute until he finds a second job on top of his MP’s salary of £86,584. “V funny!,” he responded, which isn’t technically a no…

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