It was always a match made in hell, but the relationship between Tory MPs and the Daily Mail – and, for that matter, the MPs and the party members – was showing distinct signs of strain at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.
“That bloody newspaper has done for this party,” one senior backbencher tells Mandrake. “It’s given the members one duff tip after another, but they keep coming back for more – Brexit, Theresa, Boris and now this pillock we’ve got leading us. It’s certainly going to cost me my seat. I was asked if I wanted to go to the Mail’s conference drinks party and I told them to get stuffed. I wasn’t the only one.”
The Mail’s grasp of political reality remained as sure as ever in Monday’s paper, which switched its front page headline between editions from “Fury as Gove stokes 45p tax revolt” to “Are Tories on brink of 45p tax U-turn?”
Whether the Mail grandee Paul Dacre remains on Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list is unclear. It could be announced any day now, and I am told the disgraced former prime minister originally wanted gongs for more than 40 individuals whom he had clearly considered too embarrassing to acknowledge while he was still serving as prime minister.
The honours committee – which operates within the organisational structure of the Cabinet Office – has been involved in what I gather was “a war of attrition” with Johnson, but it has managed to whittle the list down substantially. The businessman Christopher Moran – who I disclosed in August had put £60,000 worth of business the Tory Party’s way – was reported over the weekend to be in line for a peerage.
It so happens a Jane Dacre sits as an independent member of the honours committee, but she is, happily, no relation to the Mail man: she is president of the Royal College of Physicians.