SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


Johnson is quite unfit to be a normal human being let alone Prime Minister



So now we know, as if there was any doubt: Boris Johnson’s government was a total shambles. Led by a power mad, lying narcissist who couldn’t make a decision for fear of making him unpopular and with an advisor who was clearly barking and who tried to sack everyone he didn’t like. Which was indeed everyone. We are talking of Dominic Cummings, that strange fellow who made a 40-mile round trip to see if he could see the road ahead.


However much we thought we knew about Partygate , the ridiculous gold wallpaper and the sponging from more-money-than-sense creepy friends, the full scale of the chaos is now laid bare in a brilliant new book by that prolific political biographer Anthony Seldon with Raymond Newell. It’s called Johnson at 10: the Inside Story. One wonders if the title refers not to the address but to the behavioural age of most of its inhabitants.


Events were not helped by having such a weak cabinet secretary in Simon Case who, when challenged to do more to control Johnson and cohorts like Patel, Truss and Squire Mogg, said: ‘I don’t know what more I can do to stand up to a prime minister who lies.’


It came as no surprise to learn that Trump saw his fellow liar as a ‘mini-me.’ Some compliment! More normal US politicians got the picture; John Kerry summed up Johnson, then a disastrous foreign secretary (ask Nazanin) as ‘incomprehensible, baffling, very, very public school, trying to be funny, starting down one track then changing to another’.


For his part Johnson talked of Trump’s ‘exciting vision for change’ and Satsuma Man replied: ‘We’ve got the world by the balls.’ In full obsequious mode his pal in No10 told Trump: ‘People really love you in the UK,’  further proof that for all his alleged populism, Johnson had no idea what normal, decent people here thought about Trump and his retinue of fake news merchants.


It is the day-to-day chaos in Downing St that is most disturbing. Everyone was frightened including Johnson himself. He feared most of all ‘the prospect of those two fuckers (Cameron and Osborne) watching him fail.’ The language hit new lows;  critics were dismissed as c***s and ‘utter c***s and the prime minister included the then editor of the Sunday Times, Emma Tucker, in the latter category after the paper published a disobliging story about him. When it became clear she had heard of his view, Johnson called her to apologise in person.


The only heartening revelation out of all this is that Johnson (as did the rest of his ministers and battalion of advisors) regarded Matt Hancock as an idiot who lied his head off about PPE (the greatest scandal of Covid) to Cabinet. Johnson called him ‘totally fucking hopeless’ but kept him on so that he would be the fall guy in a post-Covid enquiry. 


Seldon and Newell’s book is truly shocking, however aware and cynical you thought you were about politicians. Johnson is unfit to be a normal human being, let alone prime minister. Or to quote both him and Paul Dacre, ‘an utter c**t.’


 While on the subject of weird politicians, I do hope we can see the last of Diane Abbott. We all know she has a problem with maths but to categorise antisemitism as lower in the scale of hate than racism against non-white people is sheer ignorance.


I researched with growing horror the Nazi doctrine and its appalling legacy for my book on Toto Koopman, the former mistress of Beaverbrook who became an incredibly brave British spy working with the Italian Resistance and ending the war in Ravensbruck concentration camp


All racism and sectarianism is wrong, wrong, wrong and is usually born of stupidity. The fact that a black woman MP who has form with antisemitism and still knows no better is proof it really is time for her to go quietly. But don’t hold your breath.


Barry Humphries will probably be remembered best for his alter ego Dame Edna but for me his greatest creation was Sir Les Patterson, cultural attaché complete with trouser snake.


Many years ago I made the mistake of booking seats in the second row at one his shows. I should have worn a sou’wester and brought an umbrella such was the shower of spittle that rained down from the stage. But it didn’t take away from the brilliance of the performance. RIP Les... 



Biden loved Oirleand but Sunak should push DUP to restore power sharing

So Joe Biden enjoyed being in Ireland, particularly in Mayo in the Wesht (as they say in those parts.) But if you read and, worse still, believe the Daily Mail you would think that makes him hate the English.

To use another Irishism, that’s bollix. The old boy was simply having the time of his life in a land his ancestors left to escape the famine of mid 19th century Ireland. Good for image among voters too, there are 30 million Americans descended from similar stock, many of whom were also famine victims, some of them even tracing their roots back to the Irish slaves.

To explain, in the 17th century many landowners in the country ran a scheme of servitude known as ‘time-bound slaves’ rather like a very cruel version of the indentures that so many hacks trained under in the provinces. We were rather more fortunate; we were paid, however little, and we learned. We also had a lot of fun. The Irish slaves enjoyed no such good fortune, many being sent to the plantations in the Caribbean like their counterparts from Africa. 

But back to Biden. I was surprised how well he spoke to the combined houses of the Irish parliament in Dublin. I was hoping for some more Black and Tans-type gaffes and a few incoherent niceties from the frail figure that we have seen answering media questions at the White House. Instead we got 40 minutes of nostalgia, sentimentality and a bit of politics. It’s that last bit that got the Mail going when he said he wished Rishi Sunak would do more to push the DUP on the restoration of power sharing in the North.

In my view that’s exactly what the prime minister should be doing; he worked tirelessly to extract concessions from the EU with the Windsor Framework only for the sphincter-mouthed Jeffrey Donaldson and his cohorts to still refuse to get Stormont back up and running. The Unionists will pay a high price at the polls and they will deserve to.

Anyway, I digress. What I really meant to ramble on about is County Mayo in general and Knock airport in particular. The first time I flew there, more than 20 years ago, I may have been the only passenger who had not taken holy orders. Most were nuns, all going the Knock Basilica, the Shrine of Our Lady which has grown exponentially from the alleged apparition of Mary, Joseph and John the Evangelist which manifested itself to two women in 1879.

In time this proved to be rather good for the tourist trade with thousands of the sick hoping for a cure joining two popes and Mother Teresa (of Calcutta, not Maidenhead) as pilgrims. Not to mention our old friend John McEntee who commandeered a wheelchair and posed as one needing a cure. The faithful were not amused.

Its greatest champion was Msg James Horan and such was the traffic to Knock the airport finally opened in 1986. It was still the most rudimentary of places by the time I flew in; parking was on the roadside or if it wasn’t too muddy, in a field.

So the thought of Airforce One arriving there is beyond my powers of imagination. So too is the barmy cavalcade of Secret Service stretch limos that accompany the US president everywhere. All those tractors and VW Golfs that normally fill the roads must have taken to the ditches.

But the shrine is not the only reason to visit Mayo. It is a place of unrivalled rugged beauty, one of its finest towns is Westport (best pub Matt Molloy’s) and it’s on the breath-taking Wild Atlantic Way stretching from Cork to Donegal.

Joe Biden is 80 and says he will stand for President again. Please don’t. Why not enjoy retirement and buy a place overlooking Clew Bay with all its tiny islands just a few minutes drive in that bloody motorcade from Westport? You would love it.


I’ve been watching Cambridge Spies on ITVX and good it is too despite an over the top performance by Tom Hollander as the completely dissolute Guy Burgess. It brought to mind Alan Bennett’s An Englishman Abroad which focuses on actress Coral Browne’s encounter with Burgess in Moscow. Burgess asks if, on her return to London, she would pop along to Gieves and Hawkes to buy (at her expense of course) an Old Etonian tie.

Obsequious Gieves assistant: ’May I ask for whom the tie is being purchased madam?’ Coral Browne: ‘It’s for Mr Burgess but I would like you to keep mum about this.’ Gieves man: ‘Madam, mum is always the word ... from Moscow to Maidenhead mum is the word.’

Incidentally Donald Maclean, a model gent compared with Burgess, lived in Tatsfield, the village high up on the North Downs which was my home for 30 years. Maclean had scarpered from Beaconshaw, his house in the village in 1951. But when I moved there in 1973 memories were still fresh. Not least by the landlord of The Ship, Tatsfield’s only pub.

He recounted with misty eyes how Fleet Street’s finest had descended on his establishment when the news broke. ‘I made as much that week as in the previous three months. Thirsty lot you chaps.’ 

 Sunak must end the endless heartbreak of 700 wrongly accused Post Office managers

I mentioned in my rant about Boris Johnson at the beginning of the week that Covid PPE was an enormous scandal. It certainly is and we can only hope that Michelle Mone and the Friends of Hancock who made so much money from the misery of the country will all end up in jail. (And just for good measure let’s include the man himself who posed as health secretary.)


But the worst scandal this century, in terms of sheer injustice and the suffering of decent, hard working, innocent people, is the Post Office computer debacle.


It is 23 years since Fujitsu, the Japanese IT giant (incompetent as it turned out) trousered £16 million, plus a further £42 million later, to convert the running of Britain’s post offices to its Horizon IT system. When, almost instantly, it started to go badly wrong and end-of-the-day takings wouldn’t tally, it wasn’t Fujitsu which was accused, it was thousands of honest, diligent families who were charged with cooking the books.


We are all familiar with the sort of people who run our local post offices; the majority are of Asian heritage who take pride in building up these small businesses. It’s not just letters and parcels, stamps, postal orders and pensions, but many of the shops sell groceries and medicines and are a vital part of any community.


Indeed they are run by the very people Rishi Sunak should know better than most; immigrants like his parents who succeeded here and who proudly give their children every possible chance. Maybe even to become prime minister.


So why isn’t he moving heaven and earth to end the heartbreak still being suffered by the 700 postmasters and postmistresses who were wrongly prosecuted? Scores went to jail, all were forced to pay back money they had been  accused of stealing, all were forbidden from keeping their livelihoods and inevitably many were bankrupted.        


As a result four committed suicide and marriages and families broke up. It is recognised as the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history.


But guess what? Despite more that £1 billion being set aside to compensate the victims of this scandal, hundreds are still waiting to be paid. Its our old friend ‘legal wrangling’ which is holding up the payments. The law wasn’t so slow when courts sent the innocent to prison.


Now it is revealed that 59 of the wrongly accused have died before receiving that compensation. Those still alive are having to fight for fairness, some of them forced to settle for less than is their due because of their financial straits.


The Post Office was owned by the Department of Trade and Industry, now renamed Business and Trade. There can be no excuse: the prime minister should summon that other offspring of immigrants who has done rather well and tell Kemi Badenoch to cut through the legal hurdles and pay these innocent, decent people every penny they are owed. Immediately.


 When it comes to the monarchy I am an atheist at best but I do applaud the King for making next week’s Coronation the first not to belong solely to those who have benefited from an accident of birth, in other words those listed in Burke’s Peerage.


Those at the Abbey will be from much wider, more representative backgrounds including the deputy leader of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill. She has accepted warmly, saying she realises that as the elected First Minister of Northern Ireland (though unable to sit thanks to the wretched DUP) she represents all strands and faiths of society. She knows too that however much she wants a united Ireland, the most important factor in the meantime is peace. Predictably the Daily Mail is outraged. Result!


On a personal note I am proud that Charles chose a group of girl choristers from the chapel choir of my old school Methodist College to sing at the service. It was his decision and his alone I am assured. I have heard the chapel choir on numerous occasions, including when they have done a regular week long summer stint at Evensong at the Abbey. The old boy is clearly a man of taste.



Case against Johnson grows longer every day

I had thought Boris Johnson couldn’t stoop any lower. But I should have known. The man knows no limits and clearly has no understanding of, and cares not a jot about, public opinion. Now he has nominated a knighthood for his father Stanley, the old block off whom Johnson junior is a nasty chip. Stanley, whom Tory MP Caroline Nokes accused of slapping her bottom ‘as hard as possible’ at the 2003 party conference and much more seriously, broke the nose of his wife in 1970 viciously enough to have her hospitalised. Another fine mess indeed.

The older Johnson is one of 100 on his son’s resignation (sacked more like) honours list and we can only hope Rishi Sunak, in whose power it is, will scrap the lot. 

The case against Boris Johnson grows longer by the day. Here’s mine:

🔴He lies like other people breathe. It may seem obvious with so much evidence, Brexit (whatever happened to all that money going into the NHS?), Partygate and making up stories for The Times and Telegraph while a journalist. One of his many former mistresses Petronella Wyatt, said exactly that not a month ago.

🔴His arrogance knows no bounds. He really does think he can get away with anything because he usually has. That’s why his time in Downing St was, to supporters, such a wild ride and, to detractors, a total train wreck. Remember this is the man who, as a child, said he wanted to be king of the world. Kids say these sort of thing of course, but in his case I believe he really meant it. Look at his Oxford Bullingdon days where membership was Strictly Arrogant Tossers Only.

🔴He is the arch trouble maker. He is trying to make life impossible for Rishi Sunak (a shining light compared with his predecessor but one) by opposing the Windsor Framework. Johnson knows full well the consequences of his fans the DUP voting against it and refusing to kick start Stormont, but of course that doesn’t suit his wretched agenda of Me Me Me.

🔴Women and Children Last. He has treated women as items to be thrown away at will. Ask any of them though it’s a very long list so it may take some time. He won’t say how many children he has, citing privacy, but possibly because he can’t be sure. His affairs are well documented and on that basis God help Carrie, Mrs Johnson No 3. Or as an our late lamented chum Ross Benson used to say ‘meet the future ex-Mrs.’

🔴Money. Johnson worships Churchill, born into the aristocracy at Blenheim Palace but permanently short of funds. He owed the equivalent of more than £3 million in the 1930s when even the butcher in Westerham refused to deliver any more meat to nearby Chartwell. Fortunately Churchill was funded by Sir Ernest Cassel and Sir Henry Strakosch in the way that Johnson has the beneficence of Lord Bamford. I suppose it’s one way of emulating your idol.

🔴Personal hygiene. Sorry to mention it but Petronella W confirmed that Johnson might be A stranger to the shower, at least on a regular basis. Not good for a lothario.


Poor Harry, what a bleating little princeling he is. He says he tried cocaine (no good) and marijuana (great — ‘it cleared the windscreen of my mind’) while still at Eton. A few years ago I worked with an Old Etonian who claimed that he could ring a dealer and the drug of choice would be delivered within the hour. He didn’t say if the chap had a royal warrant.


Netflix is showing a very passable film on the Iranian embassy siege of 1980 called Six Days. The venerable Kate Adie is shown talking to a colleague about a reporter in dark glasses who languidly awaits developments. ‘He’s not on our wavelength, in fact he’s not on the same planet.’ Who could they be talking about? Step forward the Prince of Darkness, our old colleague Jimmy Nicholson claiming, as he was prone to do at regular intervals, ‘I’ve covered every siege since Troy.’ Jimmy is played by actor Tim Downie. It’s not a big part.

DELUDED: Kari Lake and her hero

Trump’s devout fans pray for the second coming

When that (other) great Irishman George Bernard Shaw said Britain and the US were two countries separated by a common language he could have expanded his argument to embrace rituals, habits and religion.


North America has long worn its godliness loudly on its sleeve, particularly when politics are concerned. Nevertheless some things still have the power to shock. Such as a Good Friday breakfast prayer meeting for Donald Trump. Just think about that: the devout praying for the Second Coming, not of Our Lord but of Their Lord.

The meeting was at Cedar Rapids, Iowa and while Trump was not there one of his greatest fans was, Kari Lake, defeated in her bid to be governor of Arizona in November’s mid term elections.


And wouldn’t you know it, Ms Lake is claiming voter fraud just like her deluded idol. Claiming strength through her deep Christian faith she said: ‘Some very evil stuff is being said ... truth tellers are being dragged down in the media.’ Well done lady, always blame the media...


Satsuma Man could be a good choice for a spot of prayer at breakfast or any other meal if it was for his redemption, salvation, or my choice, incarceration. But these strange zealous followers were praying for his deliverance to the White House for a second term. A bankrupt (moral and financial), a sexual predator, narcissist, a liar who makes Boris Johnson look like honest George Washington. In short, an appalling leader of the so-called Free World and an even worse human being.


So what is it about Americans? The country has vast resources, some of the greatest universities in the world and yet is so inward looking. And the further inward looking you go, that is to say the middle states or to put it crudely Hicksville, the worse it gets. Thus we see the typical Trump supporter on our TV screens; obese, shaven-headed with beards down to their navel (and that’s just the women) and always baseball hatted and flag and poster bearing.


In a fortnight we have their exact opposite visiting us. A brilliant, sassy lady called Molly Touger from the distinguished Ephron literary family. She once edited The American, a paper I once part owned (post Express) for American expats here. She had just graduated from Cornell, had all the chutzpa of an East Coast Jewish girl and did a fabulous job, running a staff of her contemporaries and interviewing, combatively, the newly appointed US ambassador to London, Philip Lader.


When she left, her successor was another stand-out star, Rachel de Thample, now a well known cookery writer and River Cottage stalwart. The difference between Molly, Rachel and all the other young American we employed, was obvious: unlike 63 per cent of their countrymen they had passports and wanted to see the world outside Tennessee, Alabama and all points inward. Maybe we should hold a breakfast prayer meeting for more like our two great exceptions.



 Inclusivity is a very good thing. Just compare how this country now views gays, immigrants and the disabled compared with the Fifties when pre-war class structures were still firmly established. But inclusivity as seen by Nike is just plain daft. The company has used a former man Dylan Mulvaney (no, me neither) who now identifies as a woman, to front, if you’ll pardon the word, an ad for a sports bra which looks almost as unattractive as he/she/they do.  What next: Ben Stokes advertising pregnancy wear?



 Her Gushiness Sarah Ferguson  writes that when she hears the royal corgis bark, she thinks the late Queen is passing by and laughing. Fergie and barking? I rest my case.


Why on earth did the BBC think it a good idea to suspend Gary Lineker?

I care little for football and less for football pundits. Worst of the lot are the amateur, know-it-all pundits who bore the pants off you throughout the day after a game (those attending morning conferences at the Express will know who they are, Mr Parry.)

As for Twitter, why? Life is too short, especially at the age of most Drone contributors, to read what someone you’ve never heard of thinks, if that’s the right word, about, well, anything really.

But I do care about free speech and although Gary Lineker was way over the top in his use of language when tweeting about my old friend Baroness Braverman of Rwanda, the BBC really has lost the plot.

So that you don’t have to, I’ve looked at the guidelines in the corporation’s charter and the relevant section on the impartiality of its staff, Section 4.3 point 20, states ‘BBC staff and regular BBC presenters and reporters associated with news or public policy related…may not normally present or write personal views on political policy or political controversy.’

Note ‘associated with news or public policy.’ That’s why Huw Edwards, the brilliant Fiona Bruce or Nick Robinson never expresses a view on the great issues they are dealing with on a daily basis in their programmes. They are news presenters and reporters whose job it is to interrogate politicians who claim to know better than us.

Gary Lineker is not. He is a remarkably well paid former footballer, crisp salesman and soccer pundit. He is a grammar school boy who seems to have a point of view on a variety of issues, many of which are relevant to most people which is more than can be said for the majority of Twitter views. Indeed he seems to have a social conscience.

So why on earth did the BBC think it a good idea to suspend him? Surely anyone with half a brain must have known that it would result in a mass exodus by his colleagues in the footie department which is exactly what has happened. 

The Saturday edition of the Today programme must have come as a shock to those on the top floor. First Greg Dyke, a former director-general, was predictable enough in decrying the decision but then Baroness Wheatcroft, the former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, married to a former Tory election campaigner and not known for her Leftie views, delivered another blow, attacking not just the suspension but the language, not of Lineker but of Braverman. Indeed  she didn’t hold back on what she thought about the government’s latest Stop the Boats policy. I assume her inclusion on the show was to give a balance . The hierarchy must have been bitterly disappointed.

It’s a total shambles. Why for instance was the ghastly Lord Sugar (not as nice as he looks) not sanctioned when tweeting about the rail strikes? Of course what makes the situation so much worse is not just the management’s stupidity but because it comes at a time when the chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp, a big time Tory donor and fixer for Boris Johnson is still in his job. 

So much for impartiality.


Elsewhere in this great organ is mention of Yates’ Wine Lodge opposite the Express building in Manchester. When I was on the DX in the North in the late Sixties it was one of the very few establishments which didn’t enjoy my patronage simply because of its reputation as a bit of a dive.

One evening while on a break in the rather more respectable Land o’ Cakes, just a few staggers from the wine lodge, I saw just why I had been wise to keep well away. A chap, clearly the worse for wear in every respect, staggered in and asked for a brandy. Just as he was being refused he fell, face down and cutting a swathe between Messrs McDonald and Hodgson, editor and night editor respectively.

Sticking out of the poor man’s back was a knife following a clash of opinions in Yates’. An ambulance was duly summonsed and John McDonald resumed his conversation thus: ‘As I was saying before we were interrupted.’ 

Turnip gratin butters no parsnips with me

What is it with these Tory wimmin? Cigar aficionado Thérèse Coffey states the obvious that we should be eating seasonal vegetables (delicious and nutritious) including turnip (wrong choice matron). There are so many great varieties of cabbage and carrots and I bow to no man in my appreciation of the honey roasted parsnip. 

But turnips, no. There’s a reason why it doesn’t feature in the great cuisines of Italy and India and only marginally in French cooking (turnip gratin anyone?) It’s too school dinners and memories of lunches with great aunts who couldn’t cook but had an uncanny resemblance in look and size to Coffey. She’s like one of those people whose primary function is to annoy.

The other great bête noir is of course Suella, Baroness Braverman of Rwanda, whose demise I forecasted in these pages as regular Drone readers never tire of reminding me. Well it may still come to pass because she’s finding it hard to find a safe seat to fight for the next general election following boundary changes. She has put herself forward for the Fareham and Waterlooville constituency where the selection panel don’t much like the cut of her jib, preferring a female candidate who looks normal, warm and actually smiles.

It’s sobering to remember that Braverman is Home Secretary and that Coffey was Deputy Prime Minister to that other great woman Liz Truss.

Meanwhile poor Rishi is trying to do the impossible and sort out the Northern Ireland Protocol imbroglio, the architect of which was Boris Johnson. Only purpose in life: to further his own nasty aims and lay waste to everything else. Sunak, a decent man, is on a hiding to nothing with Johnson leading a satanic coalition of Rees-Mogg, arch Brexiteers and far right Unionists. In other words: JRM, ERG and DUP. So here’s another of my Mystic Meg predictions: even if a deal is reached — unlikely — the DUP will then find another reason not to return to Stormont as the second party to Sinn Fein. Hopefully it will be their undoing.


The death at 90 of Bernard Ingham, late of this parish, was a reminder of the days when politics was not run by teenagers who had never had a job outside Westminster. He was a successful journalist who had learned the hard way: Grammar school, Hebden Bridge Times (pre Happy Valley of course), Yorkshire Evening Post and the Grauniad. A Labour Party member to his bushy eyebrows who adored Mrs Thatcher.

When she finally left Downing St in 1990 I suggested to Nick Lloyd that we should give him a weekly column. It was a great success and he was still writing a column for the Yorkshire Post until a month ago. He was a decent man just like his only son John, also late of this parish (Daily Express defence corr and award winning environment corr) of whom Bernard was rightly proud.


And talking of much missed colleagues, Jim Davies was as good a reporter and friend as we could have wished for. John Ingham (the very same) writes elsewhere on the Drone that Jim and other hacks were caught in the middle of a stand off between the British army and the IRA during the worst of times in Derry. 

In fact, Jim told me just what peril he had been facing: He was picked up by a group of Provos intent on treating him as a spy with the obvious ending. As he was being shovelled into a car to face the inevitable a boyish looking Provisional approached the group and asked what was going on. “What?” came to reply, “He’s no spy, he’s Jim Davies of the Daily Express and I know him well. Let him go.”

Jim’s guardian angel? Martin McGuinness. 

The man some say was King Edward’s illegitimate son


Bad news, my plan to retrain as a hitman has been dealt a blow. It turns out that Putin has too many body doubles to be sure of getting the right man. So its back to the day job as your correspondent and writing the odd book (very odd some say.)


Of course the world’s premier war criminal is not alone in employing doppelgangers, apparently he has at least three just in case. And according to Ukrainian Intelligence, one of them was the poor sap who posed as his master earlier this week on the tour of Mariupol – the criminal returns to the scene of his crime. Look closely and the chin is all wrong  despite plastic surgery. Who knows, perhaps Putin is already dead and this lookalike will keep up the show with his strings being pulled by those grey-faced old hardmen weighed down by medals and vodka who look straight out of a Stalin era casting book.


Not all lookalikes are employed to protect; some are there by an accident of birth. In the case of Tim Seely, it was exactly that. He is thought to be one of several illegitimate children of David, Duke of Windsor, the uncrowned King Edward VIII. I first heard about Tim in 1988 when I was running features at the Express but sadly I cannot remember what triggered this. It might have been through my old friend John Parker whose book King of Fools (Little Brown) makes the claim. Or maybe Parker got the idea from the series we ran on Seely. (It would have been easy if the Express still had a cuttings library but alas not.).


What I do recall is my first meeting with Tim, a delightful actor now aged 86. I had established that he was willing to talk about the rumours and so on that basis I booked a suite at  the Savoy for a couple of days where he would be installed to reveal all and pose for pix by John Downing. Here was Tim in double breasted Prince of Wales checked suit, Windsor knot to his tie and with the same facial features as his alleged father. It was a real take-your-breath-away moment and had I not been such a lukewarm monarchist I probably would have bent double with a deep bow. I had no doubt at that moment that Tim was the son of the duke.


His mother was Vera Birkin, sister of the duke’s mistress Freda Dudley Ward and it is well documented that Freda, as was the way of the upper classes then and probably now, was happy to pass her lover to others including her sibling. Indeed it was well known that David, despite his stature and rather fey manner was quite the swordsman and Tim was not his only child. Vera married the aristocrat James Seely and the best man was, you’ve guessed it, the Duke of Windsor. He was also godfather to Tim’s sister Elizma.


Seely gave us enough for a series which we promoted on television fronted by Tim (ah, those were the days, Savoy and a TV ad, just fancy!) and he and I remained Christmas card pals for some time.


Following the brouhaha that followed our series Tim refused to talk about his origins as my chum, historian and author Andrew Lownie, found out when researching his brilliant and revelatory tome on the duke, Traitor King (Blink Publishing.) Lownie has no doubts however and is convinced there is also a daughter.


Postscript: Within days of the series we heard of another ‘son’, this one living in the Australian outback. I despatched a feature writer, whose name I am withholding to protect the guilty, with Downing. After a week of apparent relentless research and travelling the wretch phoned me with the news that our target had died earlier that year. A decade later when we had both left the Express he told me that he had already established this but had never been to Australia and rather fancied an all-expenses paid holiday there!


The increasingly ludicrous Squire Mogg was asked on the TV news on Wednesday what he thought of MP Steve Baker’s characterisation of Johnson as a ‘pound shop Farage.’ ‘Oh I think Pound Shop is a splendid store.’ Hands up if anybody believes he has ever been to one. Or that any believe his assertion that his friend, the Great Liar, has ‘won the argument in the court of public opinion.’ I thought not...   


ACTOR: Tim Seely, now 86, bears a resemblance to Edward VIII

Intransigent DUP are a wretched blister on Northern Ireland

For only the second time since subscribing to the online version of The Times (brilliant value by the way) I added a comment to a report which, inevitably given my background and political views, was about the intransigence of the Democratic Unionists behaving like politicians in 2023 instead of 1690. I was disparaging but given the forum, only marginally so (in fact the Thunderer’s censor didn’t much like my reference to ‘religious rednecks’ but was happy with ‘hardliners’.)

Well I must have hit a nerve because there was a torrent of comments from fellow readers, all of whom agreed that the DUP is a wretched blister and expressed that view far more forcibly than I had dared. Now I realise it’s hardly a serious guide to public opinion but Jeffrey Donaldson and his unattractive assortment of Creationists, Flat Earthers (yes really) and sectarian bigots should take heed.

Why? Because those correspondents were not Lefties from the rest of the UK, some were unionists from Northern Ireland, in other words those who wish to stay in the union but are not necessarily supporters of either the DUP, the Official Unionists or the hard right Traditional Unionist Voice (I’m not making this up.) They are fed up with the DUP refusing to sit at Stormont using Brexit as an excuse when the real reason is that they cannot countenance being the second party to the mainly Catholic Sinn Fein.

At the last Assembly election they won 184,000 votes and lost three seats. Sinn Fein got 250,00 and nationalist moderates the SDLP 78,000. So a total of those in favour of eventual Irish reunification of 330,000. But despite the dismal performance of the DUP, the total votes by those who want to stay in the UK, a combination of DUP, UUP and TUV, is 350,000. The key, however, is the strength of the Alliance Party, a non-sectarian group of grown ups with 116,000 votes and 17 seats.

My guess is if, as seems likely, Donaldson and co reject Windsor and as a consequence Stormont cannot function, they will pay a heavy price. Hopefully a new Assembly election will be called and voters will show their exasperation and desert them for the Alliance, Sinn Fein (which has a strong middle class following) or one of the other pro-union parties.  

The DUP has played havoc with people’s lives in the province for far too long. They are desperate to have a government to deal with the worst hospital waiting lists in the UK, housing and transport issues and other urgent problems. They don’t want  the usual chorus of No.

Or as their founder would have it: Never, Never, Never!


As Glenda Slagg used to say: Dontcha just love ‘em. I refer to that great intellectual pairing of M Hancock and G Williamson who, it turns out, were going at it hammer and tongs on whether schools should be closed during the Covid pandemic. Williamson, according to the WhatsApp leaks in the Telegraph, said teachers were looking for an excuse not to work and Hancock, who must be finding life outside the jungle, infinitely trickier, allegedly rejected the chief medical officer’s advice on care homes.

These two were and are political pygmies and deserve each other. In the case of Hancock, the daft sap trusted Isabel Oakeshott with his secrets. Did he really not know that she built a career on causing trouble as former Lib MP Chris Huhne and ex-ambassador to Washington Sir Kim Darroch will testify?


What a shame monarchs have given up punishment by beheading. King Charles certainly is showing his steely side (no pun intended) by evicting Harry and his (sometime-to-be-ex) wife from Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate. The new tenant will be his creepy Uncle Andrew, who will have to make do with five bedrooms instead of the seven at Royal Lodge. Poor luv, where will he keep all those teddy bears?


Question of the week: At PMQs Patrick Grady, Independent Glasgow N, noting that Charles has decreed a mix of singers at his coronation should come from, among the many communities, refugees to the UK: ‘ Will the refugee choir be sent to Rwanda before or after the coronation?’