Diary: Pull me another one - Kelvin MacKenzie hits back after Sir John Major's denial


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The Independent Online

An intriguing detail of Sir John Major's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was that he almost called Kelvin MacKenzie a liar. There is a story dating from September 1992, when sterling crashed out of the EU exchange rate mechanism at a cost of billions to the public purse. The then Prime Minister rang the editor of The Sun to ask how it would play in the next day's paper. MacKenzie claims to have replied: "Prime Minister, I've got a bucket of sh** on my desk and I'm going to pour it all over you."

Major told Leveson that he could not remember being spoken to in this manner, and claimed that he would remember if such a conversation had taken place – which it could not have done, because if it had he would not have subsequently invited MacKenzie to Downing Street.

The incorrigible MacKenzie, now a Daily Mail columnist, insists that it is Sir John, not he, who has got it wrong. He has compounded the insult with an account of what happened on that subsequent visit to No 10. It was on a day when The Sun carried a picture story about how the strains of office were causing Major's hair to turn grey.

Allegedly, in MacKenzie's presence, the Prime Minister leant forward, pointed to his head, and said to his press secretary, Gus O'Donnell; "Tell me Gus, is there any grey hair?" Like a true mandarin, O'Donnell allegedly replied: "Of course not, Prime Minister."

MacKenzie tells me he "will be pouring another bucket" over John Major in his next column.

Incredulity at media-shy Brown

Much has also been written about the strange testimony the Leveson Inquiry heard from another former Prime Minister. David Cameron made sport at yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions about Gordon Brown's claim, made on oath, that he never sent his spin doctors out to trash the reputations of political rivals. Another bewildering aspect of Brown's evidence was his claim that he never paid much attention to what was written about him in newspapers. The man who rang Alistair Darling at 6 o'clock one Boxing Day morning about a story in The Telegraph business news was obviously some other Gordon Brown.

Berger belies her breeding

Top tweet from Prime Minister's Questions yesterday was from the Labour MP Luciana Berger – "Nick Clegg not in his normal place sat next to the PM for #pmqs where is he??"

Duh! Nick Clegg was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry live on television. And, on a grammatical point, someone as well educated as Luciana Berger, an old girl of Haberdashers' Aske's school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, where current fees are £12,666 a year, ought to know that the present participle of "sit" is not "sat".

Duty calls for Tory MP on honeymoon

While other politicians were watching the vast flotilla heading down the Thames on the day of the Queen's Jubilee, the recently elected Tory MP Justin Tomlinson was in the 13th-century chapel below Westminster Hall, getting married to Jo Wheeler, clerk of one of the parish councils in his constituency. Afterwards, the newly-weds flew to Mauritius. But what began so romantically ended prosaically, when a call from the Whips office summoned Tomlinson to use his vote to help save the career of the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

"I had been granted permission to be absent for my honeymoon until this Friday, although I was always due to land back in the UK this morning," Tomlinson said before yesterday's vote.

"Thankfully, due to an exceptionally understanding new wife, some quick-thinking reorganisation, and a frantic dash, I should be able to make it back. I fully understand and appreciate that this is an important vote and I personally am happy to support Jeremy Hunt."