Gove going rogue and a new slimline Osborne can only mean one thing: the War of the Tory Succession is hotting up

We’re all in this together, as George Osborne’s belt-tightening shows


It is a rare and electrifying delight to begin with a genuine exclusive. When the new academic year begins in September – so reveals a leaked memo from the Education Secretary’s office – all GCSE politics students will be issued with a Michael Gove to English phrase translating dictionary. A sample entry has reached us. In this important new textbook, “a ridiculous number of Etonians in the Cabinet” translates as “Boris the next Tory leader? Are you pulling my plonker?”

It may alternatively be rendered: “Since St Paul’s is virtually a sink estate comprehensive, the next leader must be my friend George ‘Oik’ Osborne, heir to a 14th baronet, who will make me Foreign Secretary. Or possibly, if I can knife Boris on his behalf, Chancellor.”

With the book still months from the printers, however, Govey has felt obliged to spell his thoughts out. The Mail on Sunday reports that, over £100-per-bottle wine during dinner at Rupert Murdoch’s Mayfair residence, a “tipsy” Gove told the old darling that Boris “has no gravitas and is unfit to lead the nation”. And so, with the War of the Tory Succession intensifying, George popped up on Andrew Marr’s BBC 1 show yesterday, when the eye was transfixed by his leanness.

He must have lost a stone and two chins lately, and this recession of girth tells a tale of a man striving for peak fitness with a long, attritional campaign in mind.

The contrast with Boris’ self-inflationary policy could not be starker, although the portly Mayor counterstruck, also in the MoS, by vowing to lead the crusade against the mansion tax.

Or, as my well-thumbed Boris-English dictionary has it: “That moron Osborne may think that paying 40 per cent income tax is a joy, but you aspirational middle classes will be safe with me as PM.”

All tremendous fun, and whether Govey has shot his bolt and damaged Oiky in his efforts to promote him, time will tell. But one lesson for him must be this: accept Murdoch’s hospitality if you must, but next time do not eschew the Evian.

Hang on. Haven’t I heard that somewhere before?

Reflections on Tony Benn continue to flood in, with an inevitable backlash succeeding the initial outpouring of love. Leading the Sabbath detractors was Adam Boulton, who pretended in his Sunday Times column to believe that Benn yielded his right to comment on politics the moment he left the Commons.

It’s an intriguing notion from a chap who spends much of his telly career asking fellow hacks to opine, although what I liked most were these words about Benn’s renunciation of his viscountcy. “After a three-year fight, Benn won the right to be an MP. But, as so often in his career, his success had unintended consequences: Alec Douglas-Home exploited the same loophole to become Conservative Prime Minister.”

Mind you, I also liked these words, published online on Friday regarding the identical ishoo, from the Guardian’s Michael White: “The showdown ended in victory, though – as often with Benn’s campaigns – the law of unintended consequences kicked in. Within months of Benn’s reform it had allowed the 13th Earl of Home to renounce his peerage too and succeed Harold Macmillan as Tory PM.” Is that my tinnitus flaring up again, or can anyone else hear the spooky stirrings of the Twilight Zone signature tune?

Tony Benn was a great man, I can tell you

My own two penn’orth on Mr Benn concerns the jiffy bag which landed on the doormat a few days after I interviewed him 10 years ago.

“I much enjoyed our little chat, and felt I ought to return this,” he had written on a card, concerning four of the more scintillating hours in my career. “This” was the packet of Marlboro Lights I had left in his sitting room. Inside were two cigarettes. What an enchanting man. I mean to say, WHAT an enchanting man.

Don’t worry, the Beeb’s safe. Nolly’s got a plan

Any concerns about the BBC’s long-term future may safely be abandoned. Noel Edmonds confides to Sunday Times readers that he is the spearhead of a consortium of wealthy investors, collectively known as Project Reith, standing by to purchase the Corporation.

Nolly reveals that he and his mates will have no trouble paying a fair market price if and when – “when” apparently being odds-on favourite – a mass refusal to pay the licence fee causes the Beeb’s “instant collapse”.

What can you say other than phew? If the masterplan sounds a touch doolally, don’t be deceived. As our leading proponent of “cosmic ordering” – the faith that we may all place orders for our hearts’ desires with the cosmos (how precisely eludes me for the minute), and then watch them come true – it would be folly for the BBC Trust to dismiss Nolly as a deranged fantasist.

Brian Moore: anything but otiose

Saturday’s glorious rugby union Test match was made more unforgettable by the BBC commentary of the former England hooker and solicitor Brian Moore. Please God he is retained under the Noel Edmonds regime, because Brian is comfortably our best and most hilarious sporting pundit.

Erudite interjections included a reference to Jean Paul Sartre and a lyrical description of the Parisian sunset as “ethereal”, though best of all was his response when asked about a questionable refereeing decision. “It wasn’t given,” said the legal eagle, “so the debate is otiose”. Just brilliant.

There is, as the terraces used ironically to chant when his namesake was alive, only one Brian Moore.

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