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Andrew Bailey’s apocalypse

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey is in the sights of restless Red Wall Tories. I’m reliably informed that a group are discussing a letter to Rishi Sunak demanding the Chancellor sack the central banker only two years into an eight-year term. The governor has been accused of washing his hands of the cost-of-living crisis after blaming “apocalyptic” food prices and the highest inflation for three decades on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bailey, who in his first year in the job earned more than £575,000 – and who told MPs in February that he “couldn’t tell you exactly” what he was paid, after advocating wage restraint for workers – is likely to be defended by the Chancellor. But my snout predicted calls will grow for his dismissal. “Dozens of Red Wallers want him gone,” whispered the snout. “If he can’t do anything about inflation, what’s the point of keeping him?”

Boris and Carrie Johnson enjoyed a convivial evening in Claridge’s at Lord and Lady Rothermere’s Covid-delayed soirée to celebrate 125 years of the Daily Mail. According to Dominic Cummings, the PM regards the Telegraph – which paid him £250,000 as a columnist, a sum he once described as “chicken feed” – as his “boss”, but he has good reason to be grateful to his host. Relations were so bad when the Mail was edited by Geordie Greig, when it exposed Johnson using Tory donors to pay for his wallpaper, that I was told on good authority (No 10 denied it at the time, obvs) that the PM muttered that his fellow Old Etonian should “f*** off” and called him a word rhyming with punt. Current editor Ted Verity obsessively hammering Keir Starmer over a beer and curry is much more to Johnson’s taste. My informant with the Champagne flute mused that the PM owes Verity so much he should’ve bought the night’s fizz.

Labour MPs were surprised to receive formal invitations from foot-in-mouth Tory Lee Anderson to “arrange a time for colleagues to visit” a food bank in his Ashfield patch. The right-whinger, who bought a six-bedroom house a few months before asserting that the poor struggle to afford food because they can’t cook, defected to the Conservatives in 2018 after being dumped as a Labour councillor. The reasons given by the party panel included, I’m told, a reference to childcare being something that is only for women. A Conservative informant shuddered that in his party, blue-collar Tories are more reactionary than grouse-shooting toffs.

No 10 has dismissed 90 per cent of government departments’ cost-of-living saving plans as impractical or total rubbish, I’m told. The same percentage could be applied to the Prime Minister’s big ideas – among them a garden bridge, an island airport and a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

The day Johnson flew to Belfast to pretend the Brexit protocol was nothing to do with him, a PR company emailed journalists to announce it now represented “one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable celebrities”. Van Morrison? Rory McIlroy? Christine Lampard? James Dornan? Try, er, Arlene Foster.

[See also: Commons Confidential: Tories fear a kamikaze election]

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This article appears in the 18 May 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Nato