A co-conspirator shared this clip from a recent episode of The Rest is Politics, Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s new centrist dad podcast.
The pair are interviewing France’s ex-President François Hollande to slap each other on the back over how terrible Brexit is and how right they are. All par for the course, although Rory seems to be flexing his European bona fides a bit much. If you speak English in a French accent, you are still speaking English, Rory…
One of the many rumours doing the rounds in Westminster last night was whether any further Tory MPs might look at the dire state of the party’s electoral fortunes and copy Christian Wakeford in crossing the floor to Labour. Wakeford himself was seen holding court on cloud nine, and acknowledged said defection rumours, as Sir Keir visited the terrace to drink with MPs. Something a media source says has been happening increasingly frequently.
How substantive are the rumours? Guido’s heard a few names over the past week, among them Johnny Mercer. In a new interview with Alastair Campbell, the former Labour spin doctor addresses the question head-on. The answers might not reassure Wendy Morton…
Campbell: Okay. Imagine they were to say to you, ‘Johnny, do you think we would be better off under Keir Starmer’s Labour or Liz Truss’s Tories?’ What would you say?
Mercer: [long pause]
Campbell: That is a long pause.
Mercer: I don’t know what to say. I’m not a libertarian. The Tories can go in that direction, but I don’t have to.
Mercer: What do you think I should do?
Campbell: Off the record?
Mercer: On the record.
Campbell: Well, you came into politics not knowing whether you were Tory or Labour. You decided Tory was closer to what you think. You’ve achieved a fair bit of what you wanted to, but you’ve been stiffed badly by one Prime Minister, and even worse by his successor. I think you’re more likely to achieve what you want to by going the whole hog and saying to people, ‘If I can get Labour to do this, I will back them and get other people to back them, too.’ That is what I would do.
Mercer: You would do that if you were me?
Campbell: I would. You’re not a tribal Tory. I admit to a vested interest here as a Labour supporter. But I really do believe the best way to achieve what you want is to get Labour to commit to what you’re asking for.
Mercer: That would certainly make my life difficult – if Labour committed to my defining reason for being in politics, while the Tories remained where we are.
Despite this eyebrow-raising interaction, Guido understands Mercer has no plans to defect, his preferred style being to go down with the ship. Can the Chief Whip be sure all Tory MPs hold the same noble view?
The big money transfers from the BBC to podcasting are making people precious. Adam Fleming was clearly not happy that former colleagues Maitlis and Sopel were invited on the BBC Media Show to talk about their new podcast. Host Ros Atkins was not happy that Maitlis didn’t show up. Guest Bad Al Campbell was miffed that it wasn’t all about him…
Enjoyable bit of real life W1A @BBCRosAtkins on a hot mic telling his producer that he "just had a pissy message from @adamfleming..." Sadly now deleted. #ReleaseTheTape @BBCRadio4 pic.twitter.com/xqJNcSohq9— Media Guido (@MediaGuido) September 3, 2022
The show appears to have lost a few minutes in the edit suite since it first went out. Fortunately, a Guido co-conspirator got the clip above from the first broadcast version…
Last Wednesday Labour was furious at the Tories for ‘offering access’ to the next chancellor ahead of the forthcoming party conference. Responding to the report in The Guardian that donors can pay £3,000 to meet Kwasi Kwarteng, Labour MP Jon Trickett accused the Tories of putting democracy up for sale:
The Tories are offering businesses access to Government Ministers for £3k a pop.— Jon Trickett MP (@jon_trickett) August 24, 2022
Democracy shouldn’t be for sale. We need big corporate money out of politics 👇https://t.co/iz42pdi6Er
Alastair Campbell commented, “same old Tories same old sleaze.” Transparency International said the move “reinforces public concerns that cash buys privileged access and influence in our democracy.”
Guido was astonished, therefore, to see Sir Keir’s own St. Pancras Labour branch simultaneously launching a fundraising auction to raise cash for “our General Election campaign and [get] Keir into Number 10.” One of the prizes? Tea for two with Shadow Cabinet member Jenny Chapman…
Admittedly the prize of tea with one of Starmer’s most senior colleagues stands head and shoulders above some of the other items up for auction, including a signed copy of Sir Keir’s 2021 conference speech that even his own team admitted droned on for far too long.
Politicians selling access to wealthy individuals is a practise as old as time, yet Labour continually gets on their high horse about it. £3,000 to meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Tory conference is a hell of a steal given Labour charges £5,000 to donors in return for dinners with Shadow Cabinet members…
“Six inquiries into Iraq“, and Alastair Campbell claims New Labour were “cleared by all of them“. Must’ve forgotten about the Chilcot Report – an easy mistake to make…
The New European is closing a £500,000 funding round at a £5 million valuation. It boasts a number of rich, big name remainer celebrity backers like Lionel Barber (ex-FT) and Mark Thompson (ex-BBC). They reckon the investment will help it make a profit next year after consistently losing hundreds of thousands a year. Guido is not convinced this will be a profitable investment.
It seems fashionable for rich remainers to own their own loss-making publication, the hardline-centrist to soft-left, loss-making media space is well-funded and crowded; Prospect, Tortoise, Byline Times, New Statesman and The New European. They somehow give themselves multi-million valuations and raise investment on the back of it. Would you buy shares in a magazine on the back of a recommendation from Alastair Campbell? It seems “mission” investors will.
Over on the right-of-centre side of the political media, The Spectator booked over £2 million in profits last year, Guido is pleased to say we did well too. Are we doing something wrong consistently making actual profits?