ANDREW PIERCE: The Thatcher thrift that Boris Johnson could learn in No10
With an unprecedented Electoral Commission investigation into the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, Boris Johnson could have avoided a lot of trouble if only he had followed the example set by one of his illustrious — and thrifty — predecessors.
As chatelaine of No 10, Margaret Thatcher applied the same rigour to spending on decor as she did to the nation’s finances. On one occasion, the Iron Lady vetoed plans for a new carpet in her study.
‘There was a small threadbare square in front of her favourite armchair,’ one of her former advisers told me this week. ‘Her officials wanted a new carpet but she was having none of it.’
Boris Johnson could have avoided a lot of trouble if only he had followed the example set by one of his illustrious — and thrifty — predecessors
She directed them to search the cellar to see if offcuts left over from the original fitting had been stored there and, sure enough, they found some.
They cut out a square and placed it over the offending space. The result? ‘One bright square in a sea of faded green pile, but Maggie was chuffed to bits,’ my source tells me.
In her memoir, The Downing Street Years, Baroness Thatcher wrote: ‘I had the study re-papered at my own expense. Its unappealing sage-green damask flock wallpaper was stripped and replaced by a cream stripe, which was a much better background.’
Sir Anthony Seldon, whose new book The Impossible Office? examines the record of the nation’s 55 Prime Ministers over 300 years, confirms: ‘It’s true Thatcher was very careful about public money being spent.’
Boris and his fiancee Carrie should take note!
Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher’s formidable press secretary, has a waspish take on ‘wallpaper-gate’.
‘No 10 looks to be a fairly accurate reflection of its untidily hirsute elected incumbent. Bright, but not exactly wise, cavalier, disorganised, shambling and busking it too often.’ Quite.
Keir papering over the cracks
Tory MPs queued up to take potshots at Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader’s cringe-making photo-op in the wallpaper department at Manchester’s John Lewis store. Former minister Tim Loughton tweeted: ‘Keir Starmer: always knowingly oversold.’
Health minister Nadine Dorries weighed in: ‘You keep obsessing over wallpaper, Keir, and we’ll keep delivering on vaccines, Brexit, trade and jobs and stay ahead in the polls.’
Tory MPs queued up to take potshots at Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader’s cringe-making photo-op in the wallpaper department at Manchester’s John Lewis store
Two MPs overheard in the Commons talking about the proposed Covid passports: ‘They should be called the ‘‘John Prescott’’ to prove you’ve had two jabs.’ The old Labour bruiser — nickname Two Jags — would doubtless approve.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant — with the blond ‘do’ that makes Boris’s mop top look restrained — spots something about new TV channel GB News, which has lured top presenters. ‘OMG! Their logo incorporates a Union Jack!’ he says. ‘The BBC will never re-employ any of them again!’ He’s probably right.
After one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history, 39 former sub-postmasters had their convictions for theft overturned at the Court of Appeal. Yet in the 90-minute emergency statement in the Commons last week, only one Lib Dem MP, Christine Jardine, could be bothered to speak. When many prosecutions were taking place, party leader Sir Ed Davey was Post Office minister. Former leader Sir Vince Cable was Business Secretary with responsibility for the Post Office. Cable has retired but shouldn’t Davey have shown his face in the Commons via Zoom? Or was he too embarrassed?
Rayner’s ridiculous affront
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner came horribly unstuck when she tried to embarrass the Tory candidate Jill Mortimer in Thursday’s by-election campaign in Hartlepool.
She demanded Mortimer publish her tax returns after accusing her of living for years in the Cayman Islands tax haven.
In fact, Mortimer moved there when her then husband, Marcus Killick, a barrister, was appointed head of financial regulation specialising in counter-fraud and anti-corruption.
Tory co-chairman Amanda Milling said: ‘This is an eye-popping error from Angela Rayner.’
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner came horribly unstuck when she tried to embarrass the Tory candidate Jill Mortimer in Thursday’s by-election campaign in Hartlepool