TIM WALKER’S MANDRAKE

The New European - - Agenda - Tim Walker mandrake@the­neweu­ro­pean.co.uk @that­timwalker

Boris can’t be a hack and a politi­cian

Nicky Mor­gan, one of the last re­main­ing One Na­tion Tory MPS, is call­ing on Boris John­son to de­cide if he’s a politi­cian or a jour­nal­ist. Even David Davis fi­nally ac­knowl­edged over the week­end that his fel­low Brex­trem­ist’s ideas are too of­ten about mak­ing “good head­lines, rather than good poli­cies”.

The is­sue at the heart of this turns on rule eight of the code of con­duct of the Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists that stip­u­lates jour­nal­ists should at all times “re­sist in­duce­ments to in­flu­ence” and should not take “un­fair ad­van­tage of in­for­ma­tion gained in the course of their du­ties be­fore the in­for­ma­tion is pub­lic knowl­edge”.

Ex­ec­u­tives at the Daily Tele­graph – who pay John­son a salary so em­bar­rass­ingly hu­mon­gous that he’s still re­fus­ing to de­clare it on the Regis­ter of Mem­bers’ In­ter­ests – are pil­ing the pres­sure on him to de­liver front page sto­ries. They were in­can­des­cent that he wrote his “sui­cide vest” ar­ti­cle for the Mail on Sun­day and failed to give them prior no­tice that the Sun was about to splash on his mar­riage break-up. There is even a sus­pi­cion he per­son­ally gave the story to Tony Gal­lagher – the red top’s ed­i­tor and his some­time jog­ging part­ner – as part of a ‘clear­ing the decks’ ex­er­cise ahead of a lead­er­ship bid.

John­son made things up with his prin­ci­pal pay­mas­ters last Fri­day with his “plan for a bet­ter Brexit”, which made a front page splash, two inside pages and a leader for the Tele­graph. On Satur­day, the ail­ing broad­sheet ran a two-page ad­ver­tise­ment pro­mot­ing John­son and call­ing on peo­ple to sub­scribe to the pa­per to en­sure that they would “never miss the words that mat­ter”. A toiler on the pa­per tells me: “John­son is now paid al­most as much as the en­tire re­port­ing staff so there is an ex­pec­ta­tion that he will – by dint of his po­si­tion in pub­lic life – be a man­u­fac­turer of reg­u­lar front page head­lines for us. He has ef­fec­tively pulled off a re­verse takeover of the pa­per.”

Cash flow

With fewer than 4,000 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, there’s lit­tle ev­i­dence that the Daily Mail colum­nist Sarah Vine has achieved the star­dom of the late, lamented Lynda Lee-pot­ter, but she’s nev­er­the­less prov­ing dif­fi­cult to prise from her perch on the pa­per. “There was an ex­pec­ta­tion that her days were num­bered when Ge­ordie Greig suc­ceeded Paul Dacre as ed­i­tor, but Sarah sees her­self as un­sack­able on ac­count of her much­vaunted close friend­ship with

Lady Rother­mere, the wife of the pro­pri­etor,” an as­so­ciate of the en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary’s wife tells me. Mrs Michael Gove – she writes un­der her maiden name – was never go­ing to go with­out a fight as the col­umn swells the fam­ily’s ex­che­quer by £200,000 a year. It dwarfs her hus­band’s min­is­te­rial salary of £145,000. Cash has al­ways mat­tered to Vine. She set up a com­pany called Sarah Vine Ltd in 2012, chang­ing its name in 2016 to the Barlby Group, per­haps so her hus­band, who lost his job that year as jus­tice min­is­ter, could also gen­er­ate earn­ings for it. Its ac­counts show she has re­duced its on­go­ing losses from £24,000 in 2016 to a more fru­gal £10,000 for 2017. It’s a mys­tery what her com­pany earns as – for the fifth year in a row – it has de­clined to dis­close turnover. Her earn­ings are also omit­ted from the fi­nan­cial state­ments.

Nose flash

On his tax­payer-funded trav­els as in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary, there’s one thing that Liam Fox can never leave home with­out. “He frets that he has an un­usu­ally shiny nose and it’s a con­tin­ual source of con­cern to him how it looks on the news bul­letins and in news­pa­per photographs,” one of his min­ions in­forms Mandrake. “Ac­cord­ingly, wher­ever he is in the world and what­ever he is do­ing, he al­ways has in his suit pocket a pow­der puff.”

Gina’s cru­sade

Tory Brex­trem­ist Na­dine Dor­ries – ‘mad Nad’ to her en­e­mies – takes the view that there is no is­sue at all with Brexit and the Ir­ish bor­der and it’s a “red her­ring”. To David Davis, it is “an in­con­ve­nient ex­ag­ger­a­tion”. Sadly, as the County Down-born co­me­dian Pa­trick Kielty ex­plained in a se­ries of dev­as­tat­ing Tweets to Boris John­son last week­end, it’s very much an is­sue – and, what’s more, an in­sur­mount­able one.

Mandrake hears that the in­de­fati­ga­ble trans­parency cam­paigner Gina Miller, pic­tured, is jour­ney­ing to Newry, close to the bor­der, on Fri­day. She will hold the lat­est of her End the Chaos meet­ings at the lo­cal

Arts Cen­tre, where all in­ter­ested par­ties will have a chance to have their say. “The party con­fer­ences have ig­nored this fun­da­men­tal ques­tion and the des­per­ate con­cerns of peo­ple liv­ing in the north and south of Ire­land,” Gina tells me. “It’s high time the prac­ti­cal con­se­quences of all the Brexit sce­nar­ios are put un­der the spot­light. That means get­ting out­side of the West­min­ster bub­ble and go­ing to Newry, where the im­pact of a hard or no-deal Brexit will have a dev­as­tat­ing hu­man cost.”

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