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Steerpike: Unpopular Populus, and the call of the Boris

4 May 2013

9:00 AM

4 May 2013

9:00 AM

It’s been a tricky few days for Populus, the ultra-cool research organisation. Once the Tories’ favourite pollster, Populus has long enjoyed the patronage of Fleet Street’s most prestigious client, the Times. But no longer. The Thunderer is about to sever the link and cut a new deal with deadly rivals YouGov. The blow is compounded by news that Cameron’s election guru, Lynton Crosby, is unlikely to hire ‘not-so-Populus’ in the run-up to the next election.


A funny moment from Charles Moore’s book launch last week. The esteemed author was addressing the crowd on the subject of low taxation: ‘Mrs Thatcher always said that if people kept more of their own money, they’d earn more.’ Suddenly he was interrupted by a late guest booming ‘Hear, hear!’ in a brash, donkeyish tenor. At this point David Cameron turned with a half-smile to his neighbour, George Osborne, and mouthed, ‘Boris.’ The PM had divined the Blond One’s presence without even looking.


The prime minister of Kuwait is throwing a big lunch party at Guildhall next month to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his nation’s wealth-creation arm, the Kuwaiti Investment Office. Many distinguished snouts have been invited to slurp at the trough on 30 June, including those of Sir Ming Campbell and Gordon Brown. But something has gone badly wrong with the e-invitations. The guests’ inboxes have been hit by a storm of unwanted messages, which has caused more than one computer to crash. I hear the bungling Kuwaitis sent out the entire stack of invitations to everyone on their list. Anxious dignitaries had to sift through up to 100 invites just to see if they had been asked.


Yes! It’s a result for those revolting students. The Tories are facing eviction from their Millbank HQ because of soaring insurance premiums triggered by the student riots back in 2010. It’s ironic that the party’s former deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft, should have pledged to donate half his wealth to charity just as the party itself is facing homelessness. ‘He doesn’t see us as a good cause any more,’ laments one senior Conservative. ‘Perhaps we should try approaching him as a lost cause instead.’ Possible sites for the new epicentre of Tory activism are being scouted out. A Ukip wag tells me that Tory modernisers are looking as far afield as Holland. ‘It’s the only place they can find a bankrupt windmill licensed to perform gay weddings.’ Another possible location is the Olympic stadium, whose seating capacity is being reduced by a quarter from its peak of 80,000. ‘About right for their current membership,’ snipes a Labour backbencher.


A British company, Redact, says it has invented an ‘unhackable, uncrackable’ phone protection system. The Secure Messenger device — known as ‘the app to beat the rap’ — claims to be impregnable, and apparently its system is able to delete both incoming and outgoing messages. In public, Redact are promoting their gizmo with a gossipy slogan: ‘It’s an app that could have kept Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce out of jail.’ In private, they’re less subtle about its appeal and call it ‘the ideal product for leaking secret information or carrying out affairs’. The cheats’ microchip costs just £3.99 and has been issued free to every MP. Redact has offered £10,000 to the first hacker who can penetrate its defences.


Who will succeed Nick Hytner when he quits as boss of the National Theatre in two years’ time? The leading contenders have all ruled themselves out. Michael Grandage is busy setting up his own-brand theatre company. Rupert Goold has barely finished rearranging the comfy chairs in his new artistic director’s suite at the Almeida. And Marianne Elliott — who won a Best Directing Olivier last week — is engaged in other projects. Insiders are hotly tipping Ed Hall, son of Sir Peter, or Phyllida Lloyd, the director of the hit movies Mamma Mia and The Iron Lady. One snag: both have a reputation for bias when it comes to casting. Ed Hall’s all-male troupe, Propeller, has been accused of depriving women of female parts. And Phyllida Lloyd, a cheerleader for feminism, has declared that the RSC should cast women in 50 per cent of all roles regardless of the Bard’s intentions. The solution, according to friends of both directors, is to give Hall and Lloyd equal shares in a dual directorship. Or a duel directorship.

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