The Daily Telegraph
Former transport minister Norman Baker has won a small victory for commuters driven to distraction by the rail announcement: “See it. Say it. Sorted.” The ex-liberal Democrat MP was on a train from Lewes to London Victoria, a journey of just over an hour, when he was subjected to the irritating edict – by his count – “every bloody seven minutes”. Baker complained to the civil servant in charge of the messages, who agreed that they will now only be played twice – at Victoria and Gatwick. Baker says he has adopted his own approach to the message.
“Hear it. Bin it. Sorted.”
Bent double for the Queen Mum
Sylvia Syms, left, who died last week, aged 89, was far taller than the real Queen Mother, which caused issues when she was picked to play her in the film The Queen opposite Helen Mirren as Her late Majesty. Syms said in 2018: “We did one scene where we walked through a garden. Now I’m much taller than her, and the Queen Mother was a midget, so I had to do my scene literally walking with my legs bent.”
Liz joins the Carlton
Happy news for Liz Truss, right, who lasted just 49 days as prime minister. I can reveal she has been given honorary life membership at the Carlton Club, the Tory party’s spiritual home in St James’s. No word on whether she will get her own portrait costing thousands of pounds like her predecessor Boris Johnson. Perhaps the party really has forgiven her? Tory MP Anthony Browne described the unorthodox nature of a job interview to work with Boris Johnson at City Hall. Browne told guests including Jacob Rees-mogg at his 56th birthday party this week on the House of Commons terrace that he had an “informal” chat with Johnson “in the back of a cab”.
A more formal interview with officials followed, he said, adding: “Boris came on the line: ‘Anthony – have you got any questions?’ And a civil servant came on the line saying: ‘Mr Mayor – you are the one who is meant to ask the questions.’ Quick as a flash, Boris came back and said ‘I did ask a question.’” Browne got the job.
Why, why, why Delilah?
Songwriter Barry Mason mounted a strong defence of his lyrics to Delilah, before he died in 2001. “It’s not a political statement. It’s just a pop song. To criticise it, perhaps you should criticise Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus is a bloodbath, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice,” he said of the song about a jealous man who murders his cheating girlfriend. “It’s an artistic expression, and it must be treated like that. You mustn’t take it literally otherwise there’d be so many things you’d want to ban.”
1922’s Eu-free plonk
The centenary dinner of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee this week was a “belter”, Tory MPS tell me. It was also laden with Eurosceptic symbolism. “The red wine was Australian, the white wine was English. So there was no European Union wine on the tables,” an MP said of the Hardy’s bottles on offer. “It reflected our new arrangement with Australia and New Zealand, rather than the EU.”
You are spoiling us, Mr Cleverly!
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has taken delivery of a huge box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, below, from the Italian firm, which also makes Eat Natural granola bars in his constituency. Cleverly tells me he is looking to eat them, but surely that would be a missed opportunity. I would suggest piling them into a pyramid at the next ambassadors’ reception at the Foreign Office to recreate the iconic 1980s TV advertisement. Excellente!
John Major’s pep talk
At the Tory Reform Group’s new year’s reception this week, employment minister Guy Opperman reflected on when John Major invited him to No10 before he ran for the first time in Swindon North in 1997. Major told Opperman – then the youngest Tory candidate in the country – “You’re going to win Swindon North, we’re going to triumphantly be elected, and it’s all going to be wonderful.” It did not quite work out like that. Opperman managed to turn a notional 80 majority for Labour into an 8,000 majority. He eventually entered the Commons as MP for Hexham in 2010.