Hats off to Sir Jeremy Heywood. The Cabinet Secretary’s bid to delete himself from everyone’s Christmas card list is proving a great success. Ministers were not amused by Sue Cameron’s Telegraph column hailing Sir Jeremy as ‘the only person trying to impose some order on the chaos’. She described him as the PM’s de facto political enforcer and she gushed lovingly about his capacity to ‘excite the frisson of fear’ in Downing Street. In response, the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn tweeted that Sir Jeremy had become the ‘unelected epicentre of power’.
One disgruntled Downing Street staffer whispered to me, ‘What next? An eight-page spread in Hello! magazine inviting us to “step inside” Sir Jeremy’s beautifully appointed mansion?’ Another source tells me the dark knight’s ultimate aim is to be acknowledged as ‘the Master’ of No. 10.
Marvellous restaurant, the Wolseley. The locals assure me that it’s as popular as ever with Mayfair’s thriving community of venture capitalists and hedge-fund managers. Every morning the well-fed potentates waddle through its welcoming glass doors and sit down to enjoy French toast, caviar omelettes, Jersey Rock oysters and the odd thimbleful of Dom Perignon. But a business journalist has been taking advantage of the hungry billionaires. By slipping into the gents’ and locking himself in a cubicle, this enterprising sleuth has been eavesdropping on financial chit-chat as the whizz-kids exchange gossip and relieve themselves at the ornate urinals.
The hack’s editor, I hear, has been thrilled to receive his daily haul of ‘leaks’. Even better, the scoops are presented with no chits or expenses claims attached. ‘He never seems to spend a penny at that restaurant,’ quips one of his bosses. But the Wolseley’s management is far from amused. They stumbled on the loitering mole by accident and, having enticed him discreetly from his throne, ushered him out through the kitchens and sent him packing with strict orders never to return.
As he was frogmarched away, I’m told, a listening device fell into a tureen of piping hot soup. Leek-flavoured, naturally. Meanwhile the gents’ and the ladies’ are being regularly swept for copycat journos skulking in the locked partitions and transcribing tips on to bits of loo paper.
Careless talk in Downing Street has upset Lib Dem ministers. I’m told that at last Thursday’s Cabinet, Owen Paterson and Iain Duncan Smith, both proprietors of ample country acreages, were discussing how best to clear their parkland of moles, foxes and other vermin.
Paterson apparently likes to load his vintage Purdey and give the pests a few rounds of buckshot. IDS prefers the more progressive use of swift-acting poisons and humane traps. Imagine how the bunny-hugging Lib Dems reacted to this casual talk of zoological cleansing in the countryside! Still, at least the Tory grandees were talking about removing animal nuisances and not their Lib Dem counterparts.
The race to become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury is hotting up. The smart money is on Justin Welby, currently bishop of Durham, who meets all the requirements. He’s a family man with pinched, threadbare looks and a conspicuously modest lifestyle. He’s suitably opaque on the subject of female bishops. And he’s a recent convert to the priesthood. In his twenties he worked for French oil giant Elf Aquitaine before a surprise visitation from the Holy Spirit gave him a new calling as an enemy of buccaneering capitalism and a committed City-basher.
At theological college he delighted his tutors with a pious encyclical named ‘Can Companies Sin?’ In Switzerland recently he branded under-regulated banks ‘exponents of anarchy’. Such words are ambrosia to our political masters.
Yet the Almighty may already have conspired to block Welby’s promotion. His status as an Old Etonian won’t please Dave, who is absolutely determined to let no more protégées from his alma mater swell the ranks of the Establishment.
I hear of hasty alterations to the archive at Leeds University library. A stack of medallions, rings, garish track suits and multi-coloured training shoes was recently removed from its vaults.
‘We were quite proud of our Jimmy Savile collection until a few weeks ago,’ said a library volunteer. Had Savile lived to face his accusers he might have defended himself in court. He was a qualified lawyer thanks to Leeds University which awarded him an honorary law doctorate in 1986.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 10 November 2012