HARRY COLE: The day lobbying row tycoon Richard Desmond made a dizzying Boris Bike U-turn 

It seems controversial tycoon Richard Desmond has a track record for clumsy efforts to lobby the Tories, and Boris Johnson in particular.

In 2009, the then owner of the Express newspaper group had a bee in his bonnet about the then Mayor of London’s cycle hire scheme because of plans for a rental station outside his Thames-side HQ. 

Desmond reportedly ‘went berserk’ about the inconvenience of having it next to the building.

It seems controversial tycoon Richard Desmond has a track record for clumsy efforts to lobby the Tories, and Boris Johnson in particular

In due course, a City Hall official was dispatched by Boris to calm things down.

On arrival, the poor emissary was greeted with a mob of photographers and reporters warning that Johnson would ‘have blood on his hands’ if a cyclist was knocked over while dismounting on the busy road. I’m told that Desmond’s lieutenants also ‘shrieked and hollered’ at the poor chap.

Asked what would make the heavies go away, Desmond asked that the bike rack be placed on the opposite side of the road (such a move would conveniently mean his chauffeur-driven limo had a clear space to drop him off).

The City Hall official promptly told him to ‘get stuffed’ and the Boris bikes were duly installed.

A few months later, the official winced as he saw he was due to sit next to Desmond at a dinner and braced himself for an ear-bashing. But Desmond sat down, beaming, and said: ‘I told you that bike thing was brilliant. All my staff are using them to get to work!’

On arrival, the poor emissary was greeted with a mob of photographers and reporters warning that Johnson would ‘have blood on his hands’ if a cyclist was knocked over while dismounting on the busy road. A Boris bike rack is pictured above in London [File photo]

On arrival, the poor emissary was greeted with a mob of photographers and reporters warning that Johnson would ‘have blood on his hands’ if a cyclist was knocked over while dismounting on the busy road. A Boris bike rack is pictured above in London [File photo]

How did Britain’s crime-fighting department prepare for a weekend of public disorder on the streets of London earlier this month? 

On the Friday afternoon before far-Right thugs went on the rampage and Left-wing anti-police protesters threatened to repeat their violence on Whitehall, I hear top Home Office civil servants hosted a poetry competition for senior staff. 

While the police were steeling themselves ahead of being attacked, Second Permanent Secretary Shona Dunn was hosting the recital and dishing out prizes.

Has Sir Keir Starmer nobbled Sir Lindsay Hoyle? I noted last month that the Commons Speaker seemed to enjoy addressing the knighted Labour leader by his correct title, despite requests to call him plain ‘Keir’. Last week, Hoyle repeatedly dropped the ‘Sir’…

I noted last month that the Commons Speaker seemed to enjoy addressing the knighted Labour leader by his correct title, despite requests to call him plain ‘Keir’

I noted last month that the Commons Speaker seemed to enjoy addressing the knighted Labour leader by his correct title, despite requests to call him plain ‘Keir’

What happened to the statue of 18th Century slave trader Robert Milligan after it was removed from its plinth outside a London museum earlier this month? A Freedom of Information request reveals that he’s locked up in the Tower Hamlets council car pound. How the wheels of history turn… 

The race to head the newly merged Foreign Office and Aid Department is heating up after bungling FCO Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald was given the heave-ho. 

Trade department head honcho Antonia Romeo is happy for her name to be circulated as a candidate, but I hear No 10 chiefs are sceptical. 

Speculation that Our Man in Paris, Sir Ed Llewellyn, who is coming to the end of his term, could step up is also said to be wide of the mark. 

David Cameron’s ex-chief of staff is seen as ‘too Remainy’. Instead, I hear Brussels negotiation stalwart Sir Tim Barrow, the UK ambassador to the EU – who has worked closely with the PM on all things Brexit – is worth a punt to become the country’s top diplomat.

The Downing Street neighbours have been bickering over whether to install a proper charcoal, or fake gas, barbecue in their shared garden

The Downing Street neighbours have been bickering over whether to install a proper charcoal, or fake gas, barbecue in their shared garden

Rishi’s a flaming winner

Despite public protestations that No 10 and No 11 are a happy nest of singing birds, I hear the Chancellor has got one up on the Prime Minister. 

The Downing Street neighbours have been bickering over whether to install a proper charcoal, or fake gas, barbecue in their shared garden. 

Rishi Sunak, pictured, has won the duel of the tongs and has installed a massive, flashy gas-powered machine. 

‘Not the first time the Treasury have roasted No 10 plans,’ reports my burger-munching source. 

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