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Rats in a Sack: Labour exile Mullins is a proper Charlie

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at the Daily Telegraph, Kemi Badenoch, Michael Gove and more

(Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Whither Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins, who vowed to leave the UK if Labour were to win the general election?

The Tory donor turned Lib Dem supporter turned Boris backer turned Lib Dem supporter (again) and now Reform member said last month: “If and when Labour gets in, then I’m done with the UK and I’m applying for residency in Spain and Dubai. My time in the UK will be done if Labour gets in.”

Unlike Paul Daniels in 1997, however, Mullins has already gone through with it, as he tells your correspondent from Marbella down what he no doubt calls ‘the blower’.

“I’m in Spain now,” says the cistern magnate. “I’ve applied for residency, [my] lawyer’s been dealing with it for quite a while. I mean, I have a couple of places in Spain anyhow, so I spend a lot of time here and so it makes more sense now to be based more here and Dubai.

“I don’t want to be there all the time working under a Labour government, you know, I think they’re too anti-business and they’re too pro workers’ rights. I just don’t feel they’re the people, you know, I want to be sort of trying to help… we’re gonna have more strikes, the unions are gonna get involved, four-day week, all this business.”

Which all poses the question of when Mullins changed his mind on Brexit. He backed the Liberal Democrats under Jo Swinson’s ill-fated bill to overturn the referendum result, only to become a firm Reform supporter. Er…

“When I say I’ve changed my mind, I still don’t think it was the right move,” he says. “I still don’t think there’s any benefits for us. But I’m not fighting against it. I’m not one of these people who don’t speak to, you know, Leavers and Remainers and all this not getting on. I mean, that’s what we’ve got to follow and I go along with it. But I don’t feel there’s any benefit to us. That’s the only thing I disagree with Nigel on.”

So that’s all clear then!

The increasingly crackers Daily Telegraph has gone into full meltdown following the Conservatives’ electoral drubbing, and few more so than its latest columnist, Charlie Bentley-Astor.

Under the headline “I voted Reform because I want my country back”, Bentley-Astor outlined exactly what she missed about the England she grew up in.

“When I think of the England to whom I pledge my life, I think of the England of my childhood: I think of birthday parties in village halls and of summer fetes,” she reminisced. “I think of woodland and hours spent fashioning swings and sling shots. I think of the shade of churches. I think of rattling buses. I think of skinned knees and cricket played under the baking sun and red telephone boxes and duck ponds.”

Bentley-Astor graduated from Cambridge University last year with a degree in English Language and Literature, which would make her about 22 or 23. Did she study Enid Blyton and somehow mistake it for real life?

Not to be outdone by the youth, the Telegraph’s old guard are hitting back. Associate editor Camilla Tominey started the election campaign brightly, penning an article headlined “Whisper it, but Rishi Sunak is making an extraordinary comeback” (“With Starmer floundering, Farage flailing and Ed Davey acting a fool, a Tory revival is now on the cards”, she explained to Telegraph readers).

After the result was not quite as she predicted, Camilla penned another piece, headlined “Why Sir Keir Starmer could turn out to be a one-term prime minister”, sharing it triumphantly to Twitter/X. The Scottish author John Niven responded: “Maybe you should sit this one out, huh champ?”. To which Tominey replied: “Sorry was I disturbing you wanking?”.

Camilla Tominey is 46 years old.

The Times was curiously well-briefed this week about Kemi Badenoch’s scathing criticism of her colleagues at the first shadow cabinet meeting, with the shadow housing secretary laying into Rishi Sunak for his kamikaze decision to call the election. It’s almost as if the paper had someone in the room.

Badenoch may have learned from the master here – she was a protégé of Michael Gove, who took her under his wing early on before they fell out over his affair with one of her friends.

Rivals have accused Gove of leaking like a sieve to his former employer throughout his time in government; appearing in print every time he thought he’d said something clever in cabinet. The last occasion, alas, was him congratulating Sunak for his early election gamble: “Who dares wins. You dared – you will win”.

Gove himself, twiddling his thumbs after choosing not to be a Michael Portillo moment in his Surrey Heath constituency, is now widely tipped to take up a presenting slot on Times Radio (a position for which he’d all but inked his contract during the Liz Truss interregnum before being called back into frontline politics).

The station wouldn’t be Gove’s first presenting rodeo. In the early 1990s, he presented – along with David Baddiel and Tracey MacLeod – A Stab in the Dark, a short-lived and ill-judged late-night show of topical monologues and discussion on Channel 4.

Among Gove’s pranks on the show were to rifle through the bins of environmental campaigners David Attenborough, Sting and Anita Roddick looking for signs of hypocrisy. Elsewhere, in a segment on the then Prince Charles’ environmental views, or “ramblings”, as he said (“he does go on”), he compared the now King to Hitler, “like Charles, a hater of metropolitan life and a lover of the countryside”.

He then followed this up with: “There is one difference, however. When Adolf’s wife tried to commit suicide, she succeeded.” Oof.

They’re all still there on Channel 4’s app, by the way, if you’ve ever wanted to see Gove talk about hardcore animal pornography or refer to a senior policewoman’s breasts as “front bumps”.

A bullet dodged for Keir Starmer this week as Parliament convened for the first time since the election.

One of the rituals of a new parliament is the swearing-in of the Father of the House, the MP with the longest continuous service, to whom the prime minister is expected to pay a joshing tribute. Hence Starmer got to joke with claret-faced Tory Edward Leigh about a book he wrote in the 1970s.

It could have been different, though – Leigh became an MP the same day as Jeremy Corbyn. If two or more members have the same length of current uninterrupted service, then whoever was sworn in earlier, as listed in Hansard, is named as Father of the House – meaning that, had Corbyn beat Leigh to the queue, it would have been the former Labour leader Starmer had been larking with. Awks, as the kids say.

Announcing that he was quitting the Conservative Party after losing his Yeovil seat at the election, former MP Marcus Fysh said it was time to admit the jig was up.

Saying of the party “it’s dead”, Fysh said it had “no chance of ever being electable again” and concluded: “Move on. Let’s do something else.”

Did somebody at CCHQ take him literally? A couple of days later the party’s official Twitter/X account appeared to be deleted entirely with anyone looking for it just getting the not-inaccurate message “Something went wrong. Try again.” (The X account is up and running again now, unlike the actual party.)

“Skydiving, motorcycling, fast catamaran sailing – the wide range of things I’ll do,” responded self-styled Brexit ‘hardman’ Steve Baker when asked what he would do if he lost his seat at the election (which he did).

And, he might have added, given his new Twitter/X profile picture, ‘appearing as a new bonus character in Street Fighter II’.

The headline to last week’s Rats in a Sack was ‘What will Trevor Kavanagh make of Sun’s Starmer endorsement?’. And now we know: leaving in a huff just because nobody heeded his warning the previous week about a new dark age if Starmer took the helm at Number 10.

Except of course that wasn’t the real reason he was quitting his Sun column! “No, I’m not leaving in a huff just because nobody heeded my warning last week about a new dark age,” the Australian octogenarian insisted in his valedictory column. “I decided more than a year ago — before the Tories slit their own throats — that this would be my last general election.”

Still, there is some good news. “I will pop up in the paper occasionally, hopefully to admit I was wrong about the perils of Starmer–geddon and a one-party socialist state,” writes Kavanagh. Phew, eh readers?

The other right-wing papers are going in different directions as they choose how to deal with a very different political landscape post-election.

The Telegraph is busying itself with the Tory leadership battle, while the Mail is leaning more into human interest stories. The Express, meanwhile, is just pretending it hasn’t happened. Wednesday’s front-page headline over an ‘exclusive’ by Michael Knowles?


Lads. It’s over.

How did the latest conference from Liz Truss’ Popular Conservatives, streamed live across the world on YouTube this week, go down?

The London conference, at which the likes of Suella Braverman, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David ‘Frosty’ Frost told attendees how the Tories could have won the general election if only they’d been even more mad, began with a large on-screen sign urging people to ‘move into the centre of the rows to make room for everyone’. It soon became clear that, with the conference’s sparse attendance, it was actually to make it look to those watching online that it was busier than it was.

And how many were watching? Never more than 160 at any one time, dropping to around 35 during the later sessions. In total, as of the following day 1,241 people streamed at least some of the conference – 0.002% of the UK’s population or, if you prefer, 31.7% of the average home attendance last season at National League South side Yeovil Town.

A couple of weeks ago the column literally nobody is calling Rats also mused on the whereabouts of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s mooted fly-on-the-wall Discovery+ reality show, having been rebuffed by the streamer’s press office – busy, presumably, promoting Botched Bariatrics (season one, episode two: “AliceJean’s botched lap band removal left her with six belly buttons”).

Fortunately we’re getting closer – onlookers questioning the number of TV cameras at Rees-Mogg’s public defenestration last week were told that, rather than just the BBC, ITV and Sky, many were from the US streamer. This doesn’t mean it’s definitely going ahead – it’s not uncommon for TV producers to start filming projects before final contracts are agreed – but it looks increasingly likely.

Does Rees-Mogg see his future as a wacky funster right-wing former MP? And if so, will he be Gyles Brandreth – much-loved mainstay of The One Show and Christmas stocking-filler books? Or Neil Hamilton – er, less so?

It is with regret that we must inform you that Ukip is looking for another leader – its ninth permanent leader in eight years – after Lois Perry stepped down for health reasons during the general election campaign. She had served 34 days in office.

Nick Tenconi, chief operations officer at Turning Point UK – a hard right pressure group that claims to “champion patriotism and British culture” but in reality just gets weirdly angry about drag acts – is now the party’s acting leader.

Confirming the news on the party’s website, a statement said: “To the external imposters and shoddy sites who sling-mud [sic] in desperate attempts to derail us from our objectives and gain twisted validation for themselves, good luck! Ukip has always been and continues to be the toughest political nut to crack! Consider yourselves on notice.”

And just how tough is that nut to crack? In this month’s general election, Ukip ran 24 candidates, winning 6,530 votes, an average of 272 each, and 0.02% of the total vote nationwide.

Farewell too to Fay Jones, junior Wales Office minister, who has lost her seat in Parliament after just one term.

Jones first came to Tory prominence in 2005 when she was one of two women who posed alongside David Davis during his doomed leadership bid in “It’s DD for me” t-shirts. Perhaps she could be persuaded to dig it out again if the golf club bore fancies another crack at the top job?

Finally, James Cracknell may have won two Olympic gold medals in rowing as well as six world championship titles, but it transpires the skills are not immediately transferable – he was last week defeated in his bid to take the constituency of Colchester for the Conservatives.

Asked by the local newspaper, the Daily Gazette, whether he planned to continue in Colchester politics, he told the reporter: “If you expect a serious answer, then ask a serious fucking question. You’re asking me that one minute after I’ve come off the stage – you’ve got all day to ask a good question and you fucking come up with that one?”

Wash that man’s mouth out with soap!

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