My challenge to Boris Johnson for this election

PUBLISHED: 11:27 24 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:04 25 November 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) with Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a visit to Bassetlaw District General Hospital in Worksop. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) with Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a visit to Bassetlaw District General Hospital in Worksop. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

TIM WALKER issues a challenge to prime minister Boris Johnson.

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As Boris Johnson tries to portray himself as the man to lead the whole of the United Kingdom, Mandrake challenges him to pay a campaign visit to Liverpool, which understandably feels it has no relationship whatsoever with him.

When he became PM, Merseyside MP Maria Eagle asked him to apologise to Liverpool for the offence he caused in a notorious piece that appeared in the Spectator while he was its editor. "He's accused my constituents of wallowing in their victim status, repeated offensive and proven untruths about the cause of the Hillsborough disaster and called Liverpool self-pity city," Eagle said.

With no apology from Johnson forthcoming, it's time he visited the city. One of his aides will say only: "We'll think about it."

Dacre's acres

Although still railing against the European Union to anyone still willing to listen, Paul Dacre, the ousted Daily Mail editor, has also been quietly benefiting from it.

Figures just published show that he was in receipt of £106,000 in EU subsidies last year - comprising £35,437 for his country retreat at Wadhurst in Sussex, plus £70,311 for Langwell, his other estate in Scotland. His English estate benefits included £5,015 "agri-environment climate" payments and £9,042 for "greening practices beneficial for climate and environment."

In Scotland, the handout included £14,347 for "payments to areas facing natural and other specific constraints," plus £21,815 for "greening practices". Though down on 2017's payments, he's still picked up in a total of £332,521 over the past three years.

Going down

Fiona Hill, appears to have become distinctly disenamoured of her old boss, Theresa May. Her former joint chief of staff in Downing Street admits to Anthony Seldon in his excellent book May at 10 that she could be "surly and not particularly pleasant".

This was very different from the Fiona I last saw in the May for PM campaign HQ in 2016, when she was walking around calling May "boss" on the phone and extolling her virtues to the press with evangelical passion. I fear Fiona's WhatsApp image must reflect her current state of mind: the blazing German airship Hindenburg in its final moments.

Canterbury exclusive

The news that I'd decided to step down as the Liberal Democrats' candidate in Canterbury was broken on Twitter by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 News presenter, who gave the impression I'd been on the show. Sadly, I most definitely had not. This resulted in an apology from Ben de Pear, his editor, an internal row among his star presenters and serious questions about the professionalism of the operation.

Just before 3pm last Tuesday, I'd contacted a pal on the show and asked if, in principle, they'd be interested in letting me talk through my decision on air. I stressed I'd wanted to be the one to tell my local constituency association about it, and, if they weren't interested, I expected them to keep it confidential. This was agreed.

They immediately saw that it was newsworthy and I was told I'd be called "shortly" to sort out arrangements. Three hours went by and no one called and my friend WhatsApped me to say that, while Jon Snow and Fatima Manji had pitched strongly for it, Guru-Murthy, who'd been assigned the interview, was to their surprise, opposed to running it.

I gave up at around 6.30pm and headed out to a dinner. At 6.41pm I was bemused to receive a text saying a car had arrived at my home, even though, in rush-hour traffic, it could never have got me to the studio in time and I had no knowledge it was coming.

Without any reference to me, Guru-Murthy then tweeted out the story at 7.27pm and I subsequently learnt Channel 4 News had taken it upon themselves to talk to my local Lib Dem association. "Krishan shat on the story and then tweeted it out himself," my pal on the show lamented.

News organisations - no matter how ruthless - seldom, if ever, bite the hands that feed them, but Guru-Murthy, does have a little previous with me. A few years ago, he'd been displeased when I'd asked if it was healthy for him to be conducting so many cosy interviews with David Miliband, without letting on that his brother Ravi was at the time employed as his image guru.

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