MANDRAKE: Relief for Boris Johnson as Tory takes top job at BBC

PUBLISHED: 10:16 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 June 2020

BBC headquarters, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

BBC headquarters, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Mike Kemp

TIM WALKER pulls apart the appointment of a new director general at the BBC.

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Boris Johnson plays tennis in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster in 2015. Photo: PABoris Johnson plays tennis in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster in 2015. Photo: PA

Sir Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the powerful liaison committee set up to scrutinise Boris Johnson, must have breathed a sign of relief when Tim Davie beat Will Lewis to the job of director-general of the BBC.

“Bernard refused to shake Will’s hand at a social event 11 years ago and that was the start of a long feud,” one of Jenkin’s friends tells Mandrake. “Will was at the time editor of the Daily Telegraph, and, as part of its expenses revelations, they’d reported what Bernard had claimed and he was livid.”

After the snub, the Telegraph ran a series of disobliging articles about Jenkin invariably making the point that he was a keen naturist. Jenkin took it so badly that he complained to the newspaper’s then chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan.

“Bernard obviously didn’t want someone who loathed him to be in the top job at the BBC,” adds Jenkin’s friend. “As a matter of fact, he is inordinately proud of his body, but he doesn’t like being teased about it.”

The Telegraph had reported that Jenkin had been paying rent to his sister-in-law for use of a home near his constituency, and – while he professed to be unaware of the rules about paying relatives – he was ordered by the House of Commons auditor Sir Thomas Legg to repay £63,250. He appealed and managed to reduce the sum he had to repay to £36,250.

Lewis, who has just finished a six-year stint as the chief executive of the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, would have been a controversial choice as D-G because of his long association with Rupert Murdoch. My friends at the corporation reckon they had – every bit as much as Jenkin – a lucky escape. “Tim understands the culture of the BBC,” one tells me.

GRAVE TIMES


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The ‘R’ number in Yorkshire currently appears to be under the crucial figure needed to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and likelihood of a second wave.

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Robert Goodwill, the Tory MP for Scarborough and Whitby, is of course relieved, even though he happens to run the Mowthorpe Independent Garden of Rest, an environmentally-friendly cemetery he set up on his family farm in North Yorkshire.

He’s been known to dig graves himself and cut the grass at the garden of rest, but, as Tory MPs go, he appears to be one of the more sensible ones. He made no secret of the fact he wanted Dominic Cummings sacked.

GOING SOLO

There can be few – if any – more socially-distanced individuals in the world than Sir David Barclay and Reyna Oropeza, the newspaper tycoon’s Mexican-born second wife. Mandrake hears that the couple have Fort Brecqhou, their castle set on a 32-hectare outcrop in the Channel Islands, to themselves.

Sir Frederick Barclay – Sir David’s twin brother – hasn’t visited the island for six years. The pair only talk these days through their lawyers as the privacy case they are now embroiled in isn’t expected to be decided in the High Court until November. Anyone who tries to drop in unexpectedly on Sir David and his wife should be aware the castle has 22 cannon.

DOWNTIME

The stories over the weekend that Boris Johnson enjoyed “power naps” of up to three hours and trips to play tennis at Winfield House, the American ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, were greeted with derision after he had claimed to be throwing himself with everything he’d got at the coronavirus crisis.

Astonishingly, I hear the story of Johnson’s time-consuming tennis trips – it’s a good 40 minutes from Downing Street to Regent’s Park by car – was actually leaked to the Sunday Times by Downing Street, apparently to counter the accusations that he had been “below par”. Perish the thought he should help his girlfriend Carrie Symonds with their baby, Wilfred.

Woody Johnson, appointed ambassador by Donald Trump, is an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, but he’s been one of the duller incumbents of recent years. My favourite was Phil Lader – appointed by former president Bill Clinton – whose July 4 parties were the stuff of legend. He’d also have impromptu hamburger parties and film showings in the basement of the American embassy when it was still in Grosvenor Square.

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