Mandrake: Why is no one willing to debate Gina Miller?
PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 25 October 2018
Gina Miller laments that no one in government will debate Brexit with her, the maverick Telegraph star who wants an inquest into the "unholy mess" of Brexit, and Boris Johnson's £16,846 jolly to the States.
Few, if any people, can grasp the detail of Brexit quite like Gina Miller – and that would appear to be why she’s finding it increasingly difficult to find Brextremists or members of the government who are willing to debate with her.
Over the weekend, John Longworth – of Leave Means Leave – put the phone down when she confronted him with some inconvenient truths on Andrew Castle’s LBC show. On Friday this week, Greg Clark, the business secretary, is appearing at an Italian Chamber of Commerce panel event with her in Westminster, but he, too, will not be debating with her. His office says constituency matters mean he has to leave early.
“It’s just as well I don’t take these things personally, but I am finding it hard to engage with any prominent Brexiteer,” says Miller, pictured, founder of the End the Chaos movement. “Now, more than ever, the country needs a sensible and informed debate about where we are with Brexit, but they seem to want to push it all through under a cloak of darkness. This is just not good enough.”
Miller, who successfully upheld parliamentary sovereignty in two court cases against the government over Article 50, has a standing challenge to debate Brexit with Jacob Rees-Mogg, but thus far he has decided discretion is the better part of valour. Indeed, he has a curious habit of pulling out of any television or radio show when he discovers she is on it.
Her encounter with Longworth on LBC was, meanwhile, comedy gold. After first making the bizarre accusation that Miller goes around the country “with her fingers in her ears”, the line went dead after she told him people now understood that what had been promised could not be delivered. “John Longworth has gone, sadly,” said a bemused Castle.
Mandrake disclosed in the spring how the Sunday Telegraph’s star columnist Christopher Booker had humiliatingly had to surrender his prime slot in the paper to Daniel Hannan.
Booker was one of the first journalists to write about why he believed Britain should leave the EU, but he subsequently fell out with the powers-that-be on his paper when he acknowledged that the politicians who proposed to do it – many of whom he knew personally – hadn’t the brains to do it.
He turned down a suggestion from the editor that he should switch from politics to gardening, and still, albeit from a less prominent perch, bangs on about how barmy the Brexiteers are. Over the weekend, he predicted there will one day be “an inquest on why we made such an unholy mess of Brexit”. The line apparently irked both Hannan and his other Telegraph colleague Boris Johnson, but giving such a big name the push is still deemed to be too awkward.
Licence to bore
So determined is Sir Michael Caine to see Britain leave the EU that the fabulously wealthy actor noted last week that we would be better off poor. That is an oxymoron: not a lot of people know that.
The curious intervention reminded me of a conversation I had with the late, great Sir Roger Moore, who told me that, while he would lunch with Caine, he found his self-importance hard to take. “He could never take a joke against himself,” Moore told me. “I think he believed stardom was all about merit, when most of us come to accept, at least when we reach a certain age, it is all about luck.”
He said in terms of his sense of his own importance, he put Caine up there beside Sir Christopher Lee, with whom he appeared in The Man With the Golden Gun. “Christopher sent me a CD of him singing opera and I phoned him back and said how often I played it when I had guests round for dinner. Christopher was thrilled. Then I added that what was great about the CD was that whenever I wanted my guests to leave so I could get to bed, I just put it on, and they were always out of the door within 10 seconds.”
Incidentally, Lee once appeared in a film beside Michael Gove called A Feast at Midnight. Not a lot of people know that, either.
Although now trousering around £400,000 a year – his MP’s salary of £77,379, the £275,000 from the Telegraph, plus the income from books and speeches – Boris Johnson, pictured, still makes it a rule never to pay for anything.
Last week I reported how his trip to the Oval to get booed by the crowds set the Surrey County Cricket Club back £1,800 for his tickets alone. Now he has the right wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute to thank for stomping up £16,846 to fly him and a flunky to Washington to pick up the Irving Kristol Award. The total includes accommodation: the hotel bill of the unidentified flunky was £994, compared to Johnson’s £1,459. Presumably he needed a bigger bed.