MANDRAKE: BBC uninvites Gina Miller from commenting on no-deal Brexit papers
PUBLISHED: 08:33 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 31 August 2018
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Our diary reveals how the BBC had second thoughts about Gina Miller, the three top Labour people blocking any change of policy on Brexit and why has Boris Johnson still not declared his Telegraph salary?
BBC has second thoughts on Gina
If there was one individual who could have dissected the “no deal” Brexit papers published by the Government - or at least the 24 out of 80 that they did deign to release - it was Gina Miller.
I can disclose that Mrs Miller, whose forensic attention to detail meant she was able to overturn the Government’s decision to deny Parliament a vote on Article 50, was approached by the BBC in good time to offer expert commentary on their news bulletins.
She dutifully made time in her diary, but, in the run-up to publication day, there was an ominous silence from the corporation. “Mrs Miller’s staff tried to find out what was going on, but was told the person responsible was in meetings,” says my informant. “Eventually, this employee got back to say she had to talk to her editors about it, and, finally, on the day the papers were released, a text came through that apologetically said Mrs Miller would no longer be required. No explanation was given.”
The BBC could certainly have used Mrs Miller’s expertise. My colleague Lord Adonis complained that the media in general had been “complicit” in shutting down debate on the “no deal” papers. “Journalists turned up at press conference and were given an hour to read what papers were released,” he said. “They agreed to just 20 minutes of questions. They asked pat questions and Dominic Raab got away with it.”
Mrs Miller, pictured, confirmed she had been invited to appear on the BBC, but was not, in the event, required. I asked her what she would have told the BBC if they’d given her the chance. “I’d have said the papers the Government did release should give us every reason to be alarmed,” she said.
Mandrake’s disclosure that Evgeny Lebedev and Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel – the co-owners of the Independent – are in talks to buy the ailing Daily Telegraph has been much talked about. It elicited, however, the usual pro-forma response from Sir David Barclay and his twin Sir Frederick, the newspaper’s current owners: it’s not for sale.
There have been other runners and riders mooted in The Great Telegraph Handicap – Lord Ashcroft and the Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, among others – but my source tells me to keep my stake on the Russian and the Saudi. Intriguingly, Lebedev has chosen to keep his own counsel on the matter.
One man, incidentally, who has been oddly neglected in all the recent newspaper gossip is Martin Clarke, who made such a success of Mail Online and who now has a publisher role within the company. He was once the outgoing Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s golden boy and was a symbol of his values. Still, I’m sure it won’t be long before we hear more about Mr Clarke.
With Tom Watson taking a more enlightened approach to Brexit, it appears there are only three members of Labour’s high command who are left standing, implacably, in the way of any change in policy. My man at Labour headquarters names and shames them: Jeremy Corbyn, Seumas Milne and Emily Thornberry.
The last on the list astounds and appalls me. I have great memories of Emily tearing Jacob Rees-Mogg to pieces on Newsnight in the run-up to the EU referendum. I’ve invited Emily to defend herself from this allegation, but so far not a word.
It’s good to see Esther McVey is now to concentrate full-time on her day job as Work and Pensions Secretary. She has applied to have her private company LYJ Limited struck-off the register at Companies House.
The Tory Brextremist faced calls for her resignation last month after it was found she’d absent-mindedly told the Commons that the National Audit Office had recommended she speed up the roll-out of her disastrous universal credit policy, when in fact they’d suggested she apply the brakes.
McVey set up LYJ in 2015 after she lost her seat in parliament, but George Osborne facilitated her return in 2017 when he vacated Tatton. She described the business as a ‘media, research and communications consultancy.’
Still on the subject of members’ interests, isn’t it about time Boris Johnson declared how much money he is receiving for writing his racist Daily Telegraph column?