Mandrake: Michael Gove fears for his wife’s £200k Brexit dividend

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 June 2018

Michael Gove. Photo: PA.

Michael Gove. Photo: PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

TIM WALKER on how Paul Dacre’s departure from the Daily Mail could mean the end of Sarah Vine’s column, Gina Miller challenges the BBC on bias... and Theresa May wins a battle with a spider.

Although undeclared in the register of members’ interests, Michael Gove’s household is enriched to the tune of £200,000 a year by the shouty column the environment secretary’s wife Sarah Vine writes for the Daily Mail. The couple’s personal Brexit dividend is, however, expected to come to an abrupt halt when Geordie Greig succeeds Paul Dacre as the paper’s editor later this year.

“The Goves have always cultivated Dacre, which means that they’re not close to Greig,” whispers my nark in the newsroom. “At parties where both men were present, the Goves would always pay court to Dacre, rather than Greig.” As improbable as it may seem, Vine – who prides herself on her friendship with Lady Rothermere, the Mail proprietor’s wife – is rumoured to have put out feelers about succeeding Dacre herself, before the ensuing announcement the job had been bagged by Greig.

Vine’s best hope now is that she might be able to switch her column to the Mail on Sunday when Ted Verity – a Dacre loyalist – succeeds Greig in November.

Were it not for the Goves’ love of the filthy lucre, I’d advise Vine to bow out as a columnist as it isn’t making her any friends. At a recent social gathering, when she attempted to say hello to Hugh Grant, she was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. It may well have had something to do with Vine calling the actor a “spoiled, selfish man” in her column.

Friends reunited

Mandrake’s principal memories of an exhilarating seven days: Sir Vince Cable, Anna Soubry, David Lammy and Caroline Lucas putting aside party politics and working as a team both on-stage and off-stage, before addressing the marchers in Parliament Square on Saturday.

And, two days before, at the party at the National Liberal Club to mark The New European’s 100th issue, the look of horror on the face of Alastair Campbell when I greeted him for the first time in my much too snooty voice as “Comrade Campbell”. Baroness Featherstone, another guest and now a pal, also recalled with commendable sanguinity how beastly this column had been to her in its former incarnation in the Daily Telegraph. There is indeed more that unites us than divides.

Spiderman

It’s unlikely the threats of Gavin Williamson to bring down the government if he doesn’t get extra funding for his department will have unsettled Theresa May unduly. The defence secretary has only lately had to “shut up and go away” in a far less daunting test of wills with her.

Williamson’s pet tarantula Cronus was the subject of a complaint to the HR team at the MoD from an arachnophobe. The creepy-crawly – that’s Williamson, not Cronus – replied: “I’m the Secretary of State and Cronus stays.”

This resulted in the complainant going off on sick leave for some time.

What Mandrake can now reveal is that the impasse was only broken when no less a personage than May intervened and ordered Cronus be relocated immediately to Williamson’s Staffordshire home. This allowed the MOD employee – a bright lady, May knew was eminently more useful to the department than her boss – to return to her workstation in the Whitehall jungle.

Question time

“Is everyone at the BBC – particularly on the Today show – confident they’re giving all sides in the Brexit saga a chance to put across their points of view?”

This is the rhetorical question Gina Miller asked in her impassioned speech at this year’s Charles Wheeler Award ceremony at Westminster University.

Possibly because Kim Fletcher – the husband of Today editor Sarah Sands – was in the audience, this resulted in some closing of ranks among the broadcasting bigwigs. Former BBC man Robin Lustig denied bias: he argued that as most people at the corporation tended to be Remainers, they strained to put the other side of the argument. What’s more, he said, the subject was becoming “boring” for most viewers and listeners.

Michael Crick – who won the award – took issue, meanwhile, with Miller for suggesting newspapers that are pro-Brexit are putting the interests of their proprietors before their readers. “You need to think that through,” he counselled.

For the record, Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers and Richard Desmond – until recently the owner of the Express – are certainly all Brextremists. Lord Rothermere always professes to be a Remainer, but the test of that will be what, if anything, he allows Geordie Greig – who campaigned passionately to stay in the EU – to do when he 
takes over at the Daily Mail.

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