If the Telegraph goes to an open auction, there are likely to be trade bidders who will be focused on the profit and loss account and not over-bidding like the Barclays did. They will sweat the asset.
There will also be other bidders who will view it as a prestige trophy asset giving them influence over public life and politics. Who can afford to pay the price?
Some names in the frame for forming a syndicate include billionaires Peter Hargreaves, Peter Cruddas and Paul Marshall. Arron Banks might be tempted back into the fray in a syndicate. Maybe Narayana Murthy might fancy diversifying out of information technology into media and making the paper’s editorial line more sympathetic to his son-in-law? A look down the list of big Tory donors might give a clue as to potential members of a syndicate…
The Spectator could be spun out from the Telegraph – it makes solid profits (circa £2 million), and could function as a stand alone asset. A management buyout, perhaps with external financial backers, could be a possibility. Lord Ashcroft was rumoured to have contemplated offering £20 million for the magazine some years ago, Guido suspects it will go for more like double that to a trophy buyer…
Playing fast and loose with the interpretation of the word ‘gerrymander’, Jacob Rees-Mogg pinned some of the blame for Tory local election failures on a misguided attempt to manipulate the franchise through voter ID laws:
“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections […] we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
This despite Rees-Mogg arguing for voter ID plans two years ago, when the MP for North East Somerset warned “before personation becomes a risk it is only reasonable to ask people to turn up with their photographic identification,” before citing the ban on wearing hats or coats in the Commons divisions as precedent. Can you vote in flip-flops?
Meanwhile, carving up a counteroffensive down the left flank, Keir Starmer has spoken about extending the franchise by lowering the voting age to 16 and allowing settled EU nationals to vote in the general election. Lord Peter Cruddas fears Keir’s voting rights rejig will render it “impossible for the Conservative party to win an outright majority in the future.” Which is surely Keir’s aim!
On LBC this morning Starmer described settled migrants’ lack of full voting rights as failing “the common sense test”. Whereas EU nationals can already vote in local elections and Commonwealth citizens in generals, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled last year that UK nationals living in EU member countries can’t vote. A common market without common sense?
Following Guido’s report on the mass resignations at Daniel Kawczynski’s re-selection meeting last week, the Conservative Democratic Organisation – the new grassroots pressure group launched by Lord Cruddas and backed by Priti Patel – has waded in to attack the offending members of Shrewsbury and Atcham Conservative Association… and even opened fire on CCHQ:
“The Conservative Democratic Organisation is concerned about reports from Shrewsbury and Atcham Conservative Association carried by the website Guido Fawkes. We note the premature resignation of David Roberts as Chairman of the Association and have read his letter with some distress.
The role of CCHQ is to observe and guide local associations. It is local associations which are the bedrock of the party. We are particularly concerned that party members were shouted at and talked over. Members have demonstrated an extreme degree of tolerance in recent times. They are entitled to be treated with respect and basic courtesy.
We note with some delight that none of the concerning activity was attributed to Daniel Kawczynski and congratulate him on his re-selection. It is the treatment of loyal members and the question marks surrounding commitment to democracy that we as an organisation hope to improve within our party.”
The Chairman, Treasurer, and one other officer resigned last week after the meeting descended into chaos. Guido hears at least one more officer is expected to go soon too…
Priti Patel and Lord Cruddas have joined forces to give Rishi Sunak a major new headache. This weekend they launched a new Tory grassroots pressure group, The Conservative Democratic Organisation, aimed at “taking back control” of the party. The CDO, founded by former MEP David Campbell Bannerman, has been created to “restore democracy in the Party” after “Tory MPs ousted grassroots favourite Boris Johnson as prime minister.” Brace, brace…
“They then overthrew his successor Liz Truss, voted in by members, and installed her defeated rival Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister – this time without bothering with a ballot of party members.”
They also voice anger at the “left of centre position Rishi Sunak’s tax-raising Government has adopted.” The campaign’s being orchestrated by The Conservative Post website, who ran the petition to get Boris on the members’ ballot in the summer…
The CDO is drafting a new proposed constitution, which would give local associations the right to choose their candidates, putting an end to CCHQ interference, “which has infuriated activists when left-leaning candidates have been forced on them.” They also propose:
Priti Patel’s backing is interesting. Guido’s old enough to remember when Boris Johnson was considering making her Tory Party Chairman…
CCHQ has responded to Lord Cruddas and The Conservative Post website’s petition to get Boris on the ballot paper. The update by Cruddas acknowledges co-chairs Ben Elliot and Andrew Stephenson got back to him within the time frame requested by his original legal letter, and confirmed he is correct about the party’s rule that 10,000 member signatures are needed to make changes to the constitution. A Conservative Post source described the reply as “progress”…
Stephenson has also requested the petition be sent to them in a secure format, so they can validate membership details of signatories. Cruddas says will take around 24 hours.
“We are in further dialog about the contents of the petition and my letter but as there are legal and constitutional issues I cannot update you further for now.”
Lord Cruddas concludes his update with “#takebackcontrol”. The classics are the best…
Lord Cruddas has told LBC’s Nick Ferrari he gave the Tories a £250,000 donation at the peak of the partygate scandal “to support Boris”, believing the incident had been “blown out of proportion”. He reiterated his support for the Prime Minister and how he delivered Brexit and the Covid vaccine programme:
“People’s narrative and thinking around Boris is really determined – in most cases – by their political views, I back Boris and, guess what? I sent the party a quarter of a million pounds six weeks ago, right at the height of partygate, to support the party and to support Boris. I think we should be grateful for Boris – the way he bought the vaccines into this country and the way he delivered Brexit. I’m behind him all the way.”
Cruddas added: “You watch the next general election – we’ll see who wins.” Would you bet against a man who went from being a milkman living on a council estate, to being a multi-millionaire City market-maker living in a Mayfair mansion*?
*Guido has just started reading his biography “Passport to Success – from Milkman to Mayfair“.