MANDRAKE: David Davis is off on manoeuvres again

PUBLISHED: 09:56 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:25 26 November 2018

David Davis MP during the Conservative Party annual conference. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS.

David Davis MP during the Conservative Party annual conference. Photograph: Matt Crossick/EMPICS.

Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

David Davis takes it upon himself to try to negotiate a free trade deal in US, Paul Dacre now wants a peerage for services to Brexit, and why Sky’s Sophy Ridge no longer sees Andrew Marr as serious competition.

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, caused some alarm when he imperiously announced that he had taken it upon himself to spend a few days in Washington to talk to American government trade and treasury officials to try to land a free trade deal with the UK.

As the Labour MP David Lammy was quick to ask: “Are you seriously negotiating on behalf of the UK government in an unofficial capacity? Are Theresa May and Liam Fox aware? Also interesting that you’re doing more negotiating out of government than you did inside it.” Answer came there none.

The trip, on which Davis was accompanied by Owen Paterson, another former pro-Brexit minister, and Shanker Singham, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, has not been the only travelling he has found the time to do lately.

Davis has just reported an all-expenses-paid jolly to Munich in the register of financial interests. No RAF flight this time – the former minister had to slum it on a scheduled airliner that cost £532, but, for once, the taxpayer didn’t have to cough up for it.

The whole bash – which included £220 for hotel costs – was met by CTF Partners, Sir Lynton Crosby’s polling company. Davis was in Germany to give a talk to the Hanns Seidel Foundation think tank. Interestingly, just days after, Crosby sent Davis to Germany, one of the PR man’s aides was spotted leaving Boris Johnson’s London pile. With £4m spent at the last election on his services, the Aussie would be wise to hedge his bets.

Lord Brexit

With his proprietor Lord Rothermere splashing out on a lavish gala dinner in his honour next month, Paul Dacre – the ousted Daily Mail editor – is now optimistically pinning his hopes on a peerage, rather than a common-or-garden knighthood in the New Years’s honours.

“This would put him on a higher plane than this predecessor, Sir David English – who created the modern Daily Mail – as he died shortly before his planned ennoblement,” whispers my informant. “Lord Dacre has a ring to it, of course, but it will make people think of Hugh Trevor-Roper, who previously had the title and notoriously authenticated the fake Hitler Diaries for the Sunday Times.”

Significantly, since Dacre vacated the editor’s chair for the industrious Geordie Greig – who has made the Daily Mail more sceptical about Brexit – the paper has opened up a 234,000 lead on its nearest rival the Sun for the all-important Saturday edition, a record. The pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph was, needless to say, the biggest loser, with its circulation down 23% year-on-year.

Clueless

If you are still wondering why, after all this time, the Brextremists still don’t have a plan, Dr Richard North, who was group research director of the Eurosceptic EDD group in the European Parliament, can explain.

He says he emailed the Vote Leave boss Dominic Cummings one year before the EU referendum to ask why they had no exit plan: “Cummings told me had to deal with ‘a physical reality,’ where ‘almost nobody agrees... about almost anything’.”

Dr North adds: “Thus, it was not a question of the campaign failing to have a plan. The idea was deliberately rejected, an act of cowardice that had the main players ducking an issue that was inevitably going to rebound on us all, simply because the campaign wanted to avoid disagreement in its ranks.”

Sophy’s choice

Sky’s superb Sophy Ridge was in no mood to score points off Andrew Marr, when I asked her on Sunday if she wanted to commiserate with her rival for losing not just Theresa May to her show, but also Jeremy Corbyn.

Sophy probably felt there was no need. Marr was widely criticised for bungling his much-hyped interview with Arron Banks – “it’s all very complicated,” he lamented on air – and the best guest he could manage over the weekend was Baroness Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general. “Don’t try and patronise me,” he told her in a peculiarly graceless encounter.

I wouldn’t bet on Marr retaining his Sunday morning slot for the whole of the New Year, but at least he didn’t feel the need to call Chakrabarti a “mad cat woman,” in the way that Andrew Neil did the distinguished journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Picking his moment, the BBC boss Lord Hall said last week that it’s high time for people to stop abusing his journalists online.

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