Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is increasingly tipped as a future prime minister. But when I bumped into him on College Green in Westminster and asked him if he wanted to be Tory leader, he replied with a predictable “No” before launching into a staunch defence of Boris Johnson. I couldn’t help noticing, however, that Zahawi is less of a man than he used to be. He confided in me that he has shed well over two stone by living on “half-portions”. Now, I am old enough to know what that means. When ministers start to slim, they only want one thing: a bigger job.
Trouble with the in-laws
As if things weren’t bad enough for Boris, now his brother-in-law Ivo Dawnay has been laying into him. In one Twitter message he wrote that Johnson was “like Samson in the Temple, determined to pull everything down before he goes, like a tot with a temper tantrum”. Dawnay said: “Sending in the Navy to the Channel to sink the boats full of immigrants is his equivalent of splashing the rubber ducks in his bath.”
His latest post is most alarming: “I’m starting a campaign called ‘Remainers for Johnson’ as his continued squat in No10 is probably our swiftest route back to sanity.” Dawnay’s wife Rachel Johnson – ever loyal to her brother – tells me she “unfollowed” her husband ages ago. With family like that, who needs enemies?
Brexiteers’ final toast
Brexiteers held a final dinner to mark their victorious struggle to take Britain out of the EU at the Travellers Club in Mayfair on Tuesday. Veterans of the Brexit wars like Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Baker were among 30 guests who tucked into smoked salmon, guinea fowl and sticky toffee pudding. Vote Leave veteran Jon Moynihan convened the dinner to thank the “Brexit Outreach Group” which met weekly to connect MPs with the lobby groups trying to keep the flame alive. It was probably the last such dinner and follows a gathering at the Carlton Club in September when 28 “Spartan” MPs toasted their courage in defying all entreaties to back Theresa May’s hated deal.
One MP told me: “It was upbeat. People were friends. We had been through so much. There was an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie. Job done!” Vive la revolution!
Rees-Mogg’s new Welsh family
Jacob Rees-Mogg has trouble with Tory leaders in the devolved regions. Last week he managed to offend the Scottish Conservatives by describing their leader Douglas Ross as “not a big figure”, and forgot the name of the Welsh Tory leader Andrew R T Davies.
So when Rees-Mogg hosted Davies for a mend-the-fences drink in his office on Thursday, he was surprised to discover that they could in fact be related. Rees-Mogg says: “It turns out we may be cousins as we are both descendants of the Reeses from Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan. Obviously Rees is a common name but Wick is a small village … John Rees who became John Rees-Mogg was born there and Andrew tells me his grandmother was descended from a Wick Rees so it is genuinely possible we are related.” The father of six’s family just keeps expanding – whether he likes it or not.
Comic Relief founder Richard Curtis is still smarting from claims by David Lammy. The Labour MP had accused Comic Relief of “perpetuating tired and unhelpful stereotypes” by using “white saviours” to raise awareness of the poverty facing some Africans. Curtis told the Desperately Seeking Wisdom podcast that while he would “do things differently now … those films spread empathy, compassion and interest, rather than encourage stereotypes, on balance.
“And, if they did make more money, then if you asked people in those projects, ‘Are you willing to risk a little bit of stereotyping on BBC One on a Friday, or would you rather have the extra £100,000?’ I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t say, ‘Give me the extra £100,000’. So it is complicated.”
Hundreds of people tried to get their hands on a last-minute ticket for the pilot of BBC Radio Four’s “provocative” new debate show. More than 800 people booked tickets for Monday’s recording of the BBC’s “anti-woke” comedy show Unsafe Space, hosted by Darius Davies. Most were apparently booked by protestors, many planning to leave seats empty. The ruse didn’t work, however, and a large crowd still turned out. Perhaps the Radio 4 audience will be just as enthusiastic when it airs.
Peterborough, published every Friday at 7pm, is edited by Christopher Hope, the Telegraph’s chief political correspondent and the author of the daily Chopper’s Politics newsletter. You can reach him at email@example.com