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The circles the Spectator runs in

During Boris Johnson’s time as editor, it became known as the ‘Sextator’ because of the lifestyles of his staff

Boris Johnson, the journalist, at his desk. Photo: Getty Images

The Daily Mail took it upon itself to describe the Spectator as a “high-minded” magazine the other day. This was presumably written for ironic effect given that, during Boris Johnson’s time as editor, the mag became known as the “Sextator because of the louche lifestyles of his staff. 

It also employed the racist Taki Theodoracopulos on its roster of columnists until last year, allowing him to publish articles which claimed black people had low IQs and that “only a moron would not surmise that what politically correct newspapers refer to as ‘disaffected young people’ are black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs”.

Taki’s time on the title finally came to an end when he was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence in Switzerland for an attempted rape in 2009.

One of the Spectator’s writers, Lloyd Evans, became the target of disgust last week after writing in the magazine that he was so aroused by hearing a female Cambridge lecturer speak that he had to resort to the services of a prostitute. And now Mandrake hears one of his occasional colleagues, Geoff Hill, was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the Springbok Club – a Brexit-backing organisation described by the Mail on Sunday – when it still had a sane editor in the form of Geordie Greig – as “racist.”

Surely Fraser Nelson, the editor of this supposedly “high-minded” publication and a protege of Andrew Neil, must have a view on this?

Much has been made of Labour’s assertion that Lord Ashcroft “has got more front than Blackpool” for criticising Angela Rayner’s tax affairs – the billionaire has in the past used an offshore trust to shelter his wealth – but the right wing Guido Fawkes political gossip website has been even more vociferous in its condemnation of Labour’s deputy leader.

Mandrake wonders if Guido’s owner, Paul Staines, is in a glass house throwing stones. Global & General Nominees Limited, the holding company for his website, is reported to be based in the tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Staines has claimed in the past that this was as a shield against litigation.

Ashcroft, meanwhile, has an interest in stoking up the row about Rayner after writing an unauthorised biography of her for his publishing outfit, Biteback, which recently produced Liz Truss’s delusional memoir, Ten Years to Save the West. The company’s latest figures show it is £3.4m in the red. 

The Cabinet Office last week put out a statement criticising Truss’s book for including “content which is damaging or destructive to national security, to the UK’s international relations, and/or to the confidentiality of government business.” 

I like to think I had a hand in this as it put out its press release shortly after I asked the Cabinet Office if the book had gone through the appropriate approvals. 

Meanwhile, Nick Boles, a former Conservative MP, says the way his former party has mounted a witch-hunt of Rayner amounts to “one of the most grotesque spectacles of hypocrisy I have witnessed.”

Mandrake was the first to write about Akhil Tripathi after Rishi Sunak couldn’t appear to make up his mind on the register of interests if the businessman had – or had not – provided him with a jet to get him to some party events.

Tripathi has now had his global assets frozen after accusations of fraud and he appears to be reticent about releasing the latest trading figures for Signifier Medical Technologies to Companies House. 

The last set of figures filed last April made grim reading, showing the firm had run up debts of £43.8m on £3m worth of business, which begs the question of where he found the money to fund Sunak’s flights.

Liz Webster, the former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate who spoke to me last week about her disillusionment with her former party, is clearly not alone. Jo Hayes, a barrister who was ousted from the Lib Dems’ federal board, now tells me she is seeking an injunction to get herself reinstated. 

“A political party whose leadership controls the complaints process is not democratic, but a dictatorship, and that is what the Lib Dems – the party I helped to found and worked for unpaid for half a lifetime – has become,” Hayes tells me. “The party’s president ousted me using the complaints system of which he is head: the publicly promised independent complaints process never materialised.”

The Lib Dems are contesting her claims, but others with grievances against the party – often revolving around its complaints process – include David Campanale, sacked as the party’s candidate in Sutton and Cheam, and Natalie Bird who was suspended for wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Woman: adult human female.”

One serving party member tells me: “I trace this bullying management style back to the days when we were taking Paul Marshall’s money and it says a lot that he went on to found GB News. I think that was when we lost our moral compass. In a way, it’s a relief to have the press focusing on Ed Davey’s forthcoming appearance before the Post Office inquiry as it distracts from a lot of our other problems.”

Lord Strasburger, the wealthy Lib Dem donor, denied reports that he was considering rethinking his funding arrangements for the party and that his wife Evelyn was no longer a member. He professed himself happy with the party’s leadership.

After his fellow peer Sarah Ludford was sacked as the party’s European spokesman for publicly calling on Davey to set out a bolder vision on Europe, she lamented how much happier the party had been under Paddy Ashdown. Over the weekend, it emerged Sarah Green, who took Chesham & Amersham for the Lib Dems in a by-election in 2021, had claimed more than £120,000 on expenses to pay for work undertaken by a media consultancy owned and operated by her own party officials. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing.

The installation of new telephone or power lines in a property is often the sign of a Tory considering a leadership bid. Mandrake is therefore intrigued to learn that Michael Gove, who has fancied his chances in the past, has upgraded the power supply to Carlton Gardens, the grace and favour mansion he chose to make his home after his break-up from Sarah Vine. 

There is no clue in the planning documents as to Gove’s motivations but they simply record that a new cable now runs into the building via the basement. 

Carlton Terrace is rightfully the London residence of Lord Cameron as foreign secretary, but Gove is not the first to squat there. Boris Johnson refused to budge from it for some weeks after he resigned as foreign secretary. 

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