John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: October 23, 2017 Last modified: October 23, 2017

Too many hands

Star of Line of Duty, Keeley Hawes, has joined the hit cop show’s creator, Jed Mercurio, for a new six-part BBC One politi­cal drama called Bodyguard, playing a Home Secretary who needs protection. Tribune has learnt that the original screenplay, after she runs the Home Office into the ground and hacks off every police and security officer – hence the need for a bodyguard – had dark forces conspiring to make her prime minister. She then blows it by mishandling international negotiations and losing her parliamentary majority in an unnecessary election. Then, during a stumbling party conference performance her bodyguard fails to stop a comedian called either Lee Nelson or Boris Johnson handing her a P45. The producers vetoed that scenario as too unbelievable.

 

Already gone

The Beeb’s head of News & Current Affairs James Harding has announced that he is leaving at the start of 2018. The former Murdoch acolyte, among many other crimes, was responsible for appointing Sarah Sands as editor of Today, only a year after she led the cheerleading for Zac Goldsmith’s racist mayoral campaign while editing the Evening Standard; appointing Laura Kuenssberg as the BBC’s Tory spokesperson (or vice versa); and allowing Nick Ferrari to host Newsnight. With a script worthy of the excruciatingly wonderful W1A, Harding announced that “I am proud to have worked for the BBC as we renewed our reputation for responsible journalism” and said he would be starting a new media company “with a distinct approach to the news and a clear point of view”. Perhaps he’ll call it “Britbart”. His departure does leave a vacancy at the BBC, of course, which is handy as we understand Andy Coulson (pictured) is looking for a job.

 

You better believe it

The BBC has also announced another new drama based on the Profumo affair, written by Apple Tree Yard’s Amanda Coe. She described her version of the 1963 scandal, when it was revealed that minister for war, John Profumo, had had an affair with Christine Keeler while she was also seeing a Russian naval attache, as “a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today”. As if the Tories needed reminding, after the conference season, of a pivotal moment in which they were forced to accept that they were not born to rule.

Get over it

Just when Theresa May felt it couldn’t get worse, along came post-speech advice from jewellery tycoon Gerald Ratner whose company famously went bust after he described one of his products as “crap” in an after-dinner speech. He said the impact of her Manchester speech would be felt for a long time. “I found it excruciating and I really did feel for her,” he told Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5. “If it goes well, you get this tremendous sense of relief that you’ve no longer got to make the speech and it went well and you feel fantastic … But if it goes wrong it just plays on your mind and keeps repeating and repeating and it takes a long time for it to disappear.” Ratner said what mattered was how Mrs May responded. “I made the biggest gaffe in corporate history. And I hold up my hands: it’s completely my own fault. It was a stupid thing to say. She’s got to be successful. When you are a failure, which I was for quite a while, the poster boy for failure, when you’re in the gutter, people tend to kick you and the only thing you have to do is get out of the gutter and be successful. She’s lucky no one wants an election, so that will give her time so during the next few years she can start doing some great things – presumably around Brexit – and she can get away with it. A year ago, everybody was writing off Jeremy Corbyn – including his own party. Look at him now.”

 

Busy being fabulous

Talking of the dismal Manchester omnishambles which ended with the letters falling off the platform message, we must cherry-pick the best quotes… “What a pleasure to be here. In Manchester city, but all of us united!” (Chancellor Philip Hammond). “It’s great to be here in Manchester. Or, as we call it, the southern powerhouse” (Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson). “I talk about work a lot. After all, it is in my new title” (Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke). “I still get people coming up to me every day and saying ‘good luck’ and ‘surely it can’t be that difficult?’ And that’s just the Cabinet” (Brexit Secretary David Davis). “It [conference] has now become like an American presidential convention where we just expect people to turn up. Perhaps not even American but Kim Jong-un style – if you don’t clap for long enough you’ll get into real trouble” (Jacob Rees-Mogg).

 

Waiting in the weeds

Sir Lynton Crosby’s PR firm CTF was paid around £4 million for the Tory election campaign which saw their poll lead shrink from 23 per cent to virtually nothing. Despite such a dismal record, the firm still works for the party, conducting a “values study” of focus groups. Money for tat?

 

Wasted time

The electorate appears to be as divided over Theresa May’s future as her Tory ranks, according to a Sky Data poll. Some 52% of the public think she is a weak leader, while 44% say she is strong. And 43% said it would be bad for the Tories if she led them into the next election, while 30% say it would be good for them. The numbers are similar to the same pollster’s results in August after May said she intended to stay on to fight the next election – suggesting her party conference speech, widely deemed a catastrophe, has had limited impact on voters.

 

Take it to the limit

Tom Watson rightly dubbed News Group’s admission of computer hacking as a dramatic new revelation in the “saga of criminality in Murdoch’s media empire”. He went on: “Despite being asked about the use of private detectives by the News of the World at a parliamentary committee in 2011 it’s taken a five-year civil case for the company to admit to further illegal behaviour. We can now add computer hacking to the long list of criminal activities undertaken by Murdoch’s operatives. We know from experience of phone hacking that there won’t just be a single victim. So my question to Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates is this: Who else was hacked? The Met police are in possession of seized hard drives. What steps have they taken to establish whether there are other people who don’t yet know their personal information has been hacked? I will be writing to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to ask that she ensures all leads are followed up and any victims fully informed. This is yet more evidence that Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry must go ahead to discover the full truth of illegality and cover-ups like this. And it’s vital that the CMA is able to take this new evidence of criminality and corporate failure into account as it assesses the Murdochs’ bid to take over Sky.”

 

In the city

A $1.4bn (£1.1bn) money transfer between the Guernsey and Singapore offices of Standard Chartered is under investigation by financial regulators. The assets were moved in 2015, before the Channel Island adopted new rules on exchanging tax information with other countries. The accounts were flagged as suspicious by employees within the company, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Guernsey’s Financial Services Commission (GFSC) are looking into it. Guernsey, Singapore and the UK have all signed up to the common reporting standard, which means countries share annual reports about accounts owned by people who have to pay taxes in each member nation. A spokesman for Standard Chartered Plc said they would not comment on an “ongoing regulatory investigation”. No surprise there, then.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.