MANDRAKE: Cameron dodges a bullet, Boris in Brussels and UKIP avoids bankruptcy

PUBLISHED: 09:57 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:12 20 July 2019

Former British prime minister David Cameron. Picture: Peter Nicholls - WPA Pool /Getty Images

Former British prime minister David Cameron. Picture: Peter Nicholls - WPA Pool /Getty Images

2016 Getty Images

TIM WALKER explores; Why David Cameron will not be promoting his book for Rupert Murdoch at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Christopher Booker's funeral proves awkward for the Telegraph, and Leave.EU remains a licence to lose money.

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Leave campaigner Arron Banks. Picture: PA/ Victoria JonesLeave campaigner Arron Banks. Picture: PA/ Victoria Jones

When it comes to picking Britain's worst ever prime minister, David Cameron - the man who called the EU referendum - would assuredly top the list for most folk. At the Cheltenham Literary Festival on October 11, the subject is to be debated, but, coyly, the organisers have chosen to mention only Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden and Theresa May as possible contenders.

"There's a good reason for this and that is the event is jointly sponsored by the Times and Sunday Times, who are both owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Williams Collins, who will be publishing Cameron's memoirs the preceding month," whispers my bookworm.

"With his book out then, you would have thought Cameron would be topping the bill at the festival, but, as it happens, he's giving it a wide berth. You might wish to speculate that he didn't like the idea of his name coming up in a debate about our worst ever PM, but I couldn't possibly comment. Let's just say it's all been a bit of a diplomatic minefield for all concerned."

When I ask Laurence Mann - the ever-loyal factotum to Cameron - if he would care to comment, he swiftly said it was a question for Cameron's publishing house. They, in turn, chose to keep shtum, too. Least said, soonest mended.

Loved one

Responding to the death of Christopher Booker was always going to be challenging for the Sunday Telegraph, not least because its longest-serving journalist had not been on speaking terms with the paper's current editor, Allister Heath, the brother-in-law of the former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott.

Dr Richard North, Booker's collaborator and friend for 27 years, was therefore bemused to see Heath show up for his funeral at St Mary's in Litton, Somerset, along with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the high priest of Brextremism, and fellow hack James Delingpole, whom he said Booker held in "contempt".

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He said there was no sign of the "smarmy pseud" Daniel Hannan, who was given Booker's prime slot in the paper by Heath, or, for that matter, his one-time Telegraph colleague, Boris Johnson. North recalled that, as the Telegraph's Brussels correspondent, Johnson's "pathetic make-believe inventions" were an embarrassment to him and Booker as they had sought to make constructive and data-based criticisms of the EU.

Delingpole, by the way, objected to what North had to say about him on his blog and telephoned to remonstrate. "I had to tell Dellers to f--- off and put the phone down on him," says Dr North. "That's something I've been meaning to do for years."

Cash flow

Nigel Farage's former outfit UKIP avoided bankruptcy last year with a £300,000 whip-round among its remaining supporters, but new accounts, just in at Companies House, show the party is still not willing to divulge the origins of 75% of the donations it received last year.

It reported just £181,844 of the £705,048 in donations it received in 2018 to the Electoral Commission. This is not illegal so long as each individual donation was for not more than £7,500. Section 62 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 only requires donations in excess of that to be reported to the elections watchdog.

UKIP began submitting accounts to Companies House in 2010 and between 2010 and 2018 its accounts have reported total donations at £14,272,826. Of these £6,954,397 required disclosure to the Electoral Commission - a 48.72% strike-rate.

Money bags

Arron Banks' Leave.EU outfit may boast on its website that it played "a decisive role" in encouraging the public to vote for Brexit, but it continues to be a licence to lose money. The latest accounts at Companies House show it managed to rack up a further £139,000 in losses last year, making a total deficit of £6,309,000.

The company, set up in 2015 by Banks has never reported any income. The accounts are once again circumspect about how much money has been pumped into the business - or from whence it came.

They do however state: "Turnover represents donations received, membership income and amounts receivable for goods net of VAT." The ongoing deficit has been financed with £6 million in interest-free loans. They remained in place as at the date of the accounts - September 30, 2018, and continued to be from an mysterious, unidentified "director of the company".

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