MANDRAKE: Why Boris Johnson missed out on role of editor at the Telegraph

PUBLISHED: 13:28 28 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:55 29 May 2020

Boris Johnson uses a pair of binoculars on the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry as it sets sail from Portsmouth. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

Boris Johnson uses a pair of binoculars on the bridge of the Isle of Wight ferry as it sets sail from Portsmouth. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The prime minister’s editorship at the Spectator did not help convince the Telegraph owners that he should be given the job, reports TIM WALKER.

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No newspaper campaigned more stridently for Boris Johnson, to lead the nation than the Daily Telegraph. Tellingly, however, its former proprietor Lord Black – and then his successors, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay – did not, however, want to see a man quite so chaotic, tardy and unpredictable installed as its editor.

“Boris made no secret of the fact he wanted to be editor of the Telegraph, but all they were prepared to give him was the Spectator,” a former hireling of the newspaper group tells Mandrake. “One of the things that put them off the idea was how he responded when, one quiet Sunday during the late 1990s, Charles Moore, as editor, had left him in charge.

“As usual, David Lucas, at the time the Telegraph’s very able night editor, outlined what was going into the paper at the afternoon conference and Johnson sat there and silently nodded. He then withdrew to his office for a bit – talking to no one – and left early. David was bemused as the editor of the day tended to say something at some point. The feeling was Boris knew he was out of his depth.”

Johnson’s editorship of the Spectator – a period punctuated by so many sexual shenanigans that it became known as the Sextator – did little to persuade the pious Barclays they had been wrong in their judgment.

Tall tale


You might imagine, what with the coronavirus, the Dominic Cummings scandal and Brexit, it would be all hands to the pump in Downing Street. Astonishingly, they are still fretting about a wretched extra tall flagpole that Boris Johnson wants to see erected on the roof of No. 10.

A ‘variation of condition’ application, submitted at the height of the epidemic late last month, shows the intention is now to put it up on top of the water tower, rather than “behind the ridge line of the roof of Nos. 10 and 11,” to give it a few more inches. There is more time to make amendments – with the local planners not due to give their verdict until the end of June – but it’s Johnson’s wish to have the tallest flagpole possible. Whether he can match the one in Saudi Arabia – it holds the record at 560ft – remains to be seen.

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Burns victim


A bloke involved in the last scandal to hit this government – a few more may have been squeezed in since then, actually – is not ideally placed to defend the bloke involved in the latest one. Conor Burns, the Bournemouth West MP and close friend of Boris Johnson, couldn’t, however, help himself. “Father cares for child, son cares for father,” Burns tweeted of Dominic Cummings’ flouting of the lockdown rules. “The great moral outrages of our time. Hang in there, Dom.”

Four weeks ago, Burns had to step down as a minister after he was found to have attempted to intimidate a man involved in a financial dispute with his father by using parliamentary privilege and making threats. There have been calls for Burns to step down, too, as an MP.

Daisy chain

It’s hard to see a role for
@LibDems4Daisy – the Twitter account set up to campaign for Daisy Cooper in the Lib Dem leadership election – now that the MP for St Albans has announced her decision not to stand.

Last Thursday, the rumours of her candidacy had reached such a feverish pitch that I’d asked her for an interview for this fine newspaper. There was no reply until Saturday, when she informed me that, while she’d been “flattered” so many Lib Dems had asked her to stand, she felt the time was not right.

So had she anything to do with the Twitter account? Daisy, pictured, tells me she had “no idea” who is responsible for it, but a bit of investigation shows it was the work of two teenaged, media-savvy party activists. Noah Scull and Adam Lawless tell me it was set up to “lobby” Daisy to stand.

“We had some private direct messages with her, where she expressed her gratitude, but she never actually publicly interacted with the account – I suppose in order not to raise people’s hopes,” says Noah.

Adam adds: “It’s a pity she didn’t want to stand, but there it is.”

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