The Red Wall Tories with a taste for truffle oil and vegan cottage pie

Tories have been showing their touchy-feely sides in a new cookbook issued by Conservative Central Office to raise funds for the next general election campaign. Corridors of Flour, priced at a weighty £24.95, gives culinary suggestions on how to get through the grim first few weeks of this Covid new year.

Boris Johnson suggests cheese on toast (grill until the cheese is “faintly scabby in appearance and texture; eat quickly before you are caught”), Theresa May gives us her recipe for home-baked scones (“Just as my mother used to make them” ) and David Cameron serves up Italian sausage-meat pasta (“A super easy and delicious dish that Samantha and I often cook at home”).

The recipe offered by Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland), “Bacon and Wotsit-topped Mac and Cheese”, sounded more fun. Indeed, it was the Tories in Red Wall areas who really pulled out all the stops. Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) offers chicken risotto (“with a good dusting of grana padano and a hearty drizzle of truffle oil”), Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen suggests vegetarian lasagne (with “500g of Quorn mince”) while Esther McVey (Tatton), founder of the Blue Collar Conservatism pressure group, recommends vegan cottage pie. Whatever will the voters think?

Smoke and no fire

What’s going on at Stella McCartney’s home in London’s Notting Hill? Two fire engines, with 10 firemen, were called there just before Christmas when smoke appeared from the building. It was the third time in 18 months that the fire brigade had attended the three-storey townhouse, after it was called to put out a fire in a rubbish chute in July 2020 and another alarm at the property last December.

McCartney won’t shed any light on the causes of the alarms. But neighbours are perturbed. One told me: “Every time they swan off on holidays, we are subjected to fire engines clogging up the road … To make matters worse it is usually a false alarm. I hope the council slaps them with an Asbo.”

Awkward squad

Boris Johnson’s plans for “a two-day residential Conservative parliamentary party awayday” for his MPs have been called off. The “get to know you” event in the West Midlands had been planned for Thursday and Friday next week and was meant to encourage socialising between the different intakes of MPs – some elected in 2019 have barely met their colleagues because of the various lockdowns.

Party chairman Oliver Dowden had whetted MPs’ appetites with a pre-Christmas email that included the thinly veiled threat: “All colleagues are asked to attend.” However it has now been postponed due to concerns about the spread of Covid and will go ahead later in the spring, my CCHQ mole tells me.

We will have to wait, in that case, to admire that rarest of sights – Tory MPs sporting a range of “casual wear”. They don’t call them “the awkward squad” for nothing.

’Tis the ski-son

The bans on British visitors to ski resorts because of coronavirus fears have led to an amusing game of one-upmanship among blue-bloods desperate to get to the slopes. Lady Eliza Manners, the 24-year-old daughter of the Duke of Rutland, triumphantly posed this week in her ski suit in Gstaad, crowing that it was “off to the slopes we go!” Not to be outdone, brewing heir Arthur Guinness, 30, showed off a photograph of his clan on an Italian mountain. 

Those in the Swiss Alps may be lucky enough to chance upon the graceful Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece, god-daughter of Prince Philip, while Eleanor Wellesley, descendant of the Duke of Wellington, is in Verbier. Will there be any après-ski left for the rest of us?

Good things come…

New Year’s Day is a perfect moment to crack open a bottle of fizz, so it was encouraging to hear Liz Truss’s pledge to allow the sale of pints of champagne. Particularly as I have just been made an honorary member of the British Weights and Measures Association.

Imperial pint bottles of Pol Roger were a favourite of Winston Churchill. But James Simpson, managing director of Pol Roger UK, warns of hitches before they can be seen on UK shelves. Ministers still need to change the law so champers can be sold in pints, he says, allowing Pol Roger to spend thousands on new bottle moulds. And Pol Roger’s commitment to the ageing process means that its pint-sized fizz will not be ready for four years. I am sure it will be worth the wait!

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