Despite the circumstances, the mood was light on Thursday night at a lavish Conservative Party dinner to mark the end of the leadership campaign, held at One Great George Street in Westminster. But addressing staff and volunteers, Rishi Sunak struck a sincere tone. “I want to reassure people about my political future. I’m not going to jet off to California on Monday,” he said.
Cracking a smile, he went on: “The flights are much cheaper on Tuesday.”
From Russia with love
After the death of Mikhail Gorbachev on Tuesday, much was made of how his famous visit to London in 1984 was meticulously planned by the intelligence services. But I hear the trip was actually inspired by none other than John Redwood, the Tory MP, who was working in Mrs Thatcher’s policy unit at the time. Redwood spotted some quotes from the Russian leader that suggested he was an unlikely supporter of free markets who wanted to liberalise the Soviet Union.
“I took the quotes to Margaret and read them out, and she said they must have come from Ronnie Reagan,” he recalls. “We got onto the Foreign Office and invited him, and that was what kicked it all off.”
Rumours abound on where Boris Johnson will live when he leaves Downing Street. His No 10 spin doctors are remaining tight-lipped, but the latest whispers centre on a £3.75 million house in Herne Hill. One might think Lefty south London wouldn’t be the departing PM’s first choice, but the estate agent’s photos suggest the interior design is very much to Mr and Mrs Johnson’s liking.
How could they pass on a house that already has a living room kitted out in gold wallpaper?
Dude, where’s my car?
All the talk about how Boris will get back from Balmoral after meeting the Queen on Tuesday recalls a story the Lord St John of Fawsley loved to tell.
Having been sacked as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by Margaret Thatcher, Lord Fawsley took his Seals of Office in his official car to Buckingham Palace to return them.
When he came out, the car had vanished. Bewildered, he said to the duty police officer: “Where’s my car gone?” With a straight face the officer replied: “And what car would that be then, sir?”
Has old age softened even Irvine Welsh? The prickly Scottish novelist, below, said this week that he “hates the f—ing national treasure s—”, claiming that he is “still a f—ing bad bastard”, even if no one takes him seriously anymore. Yet when asked by a How To Academy audience member about any recent antics, the author of Trainspotting admitted that he is “not used to drinking anymore” and that the last time he went out, he split his head open and woke up singing David Bowie in A&E.
Even more tame is his go-to karaoke song. “My standard is a Sheena Easton medley. I do Modern Girl, 9 to 5 and For Your Eyes Only,” he said.
Come on you reds
It may have been Sir Keir Starmer’s 60th birthday yesterday but he’s still pretty handy on the football field.
The Labour leader slogged it out in a five-a-side for an hour with his staff in south London on Tuesday night and “coolly dispatched a penalty midway through the first half”, according to one awed employee. Sir Keir apparently describes himself as “a bit of a midfield general”.
What’s that they say about keeping control of the centre ground?
Migrant crisis? What migrant crisis?
The foreign trips never end for the Home Office’s top civil servant, Matthew Rycroft, who – hot on the heels of a tour around New Zealand and Australia – has found himself on a diplomatic jolly to Fiji this week.
Government surces are questioning whether now is the right time to be swanning around Oceania meeting various dignitaries, given the ongoing migrant crisis in the Channel.
The Home Office insists he is advancing “strategic aims across a number of our priorities”, but the talk in Whitehall is that he’s after a move to the Foreign Office.
Is this the longest job interview in history?