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Why the Carlton Club might send Boris to the basement

The Telegraph's weekly Peterborough diary column offers an unparalleled insight into what's really going on at Westminster and beyond

Back in March, Peterborough revealed that the Carlton Club, in London’s St James’s, had commissioned a portrait of Boris Johnson to hang next to the other paintings of Tory leaders. But I can reveal that there is now disagreement among its secretive committee about where the picture by Richard Stone should be placed. There is concern about the fact that the fall of Johnson’s government began in the private members’ club itself, after the former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher was accused of sexually assaulting two men there (allegations he denies).

The painting is thought to have cost tens of thousands of pounds, and some Boris backers on the committee want it to take pride of place – like David Cameron’s likeness, which is seen by any visitor who steps through the front door. Others think it would be better off in the basement. 


Wildlife presenters at war

The naturalist Chris Packham isn’t known to be a shrinking violet. The Springwatch presenter, who holds forthright views on country pursuits, only last week got into a scrap with the BBC, co-signing a letter accusing the corporation of not asking Tory leadership candidates enough questions about climate change.

But after it was reported that Adam Henson, the Countryfile presenter, had praised sustainable shooting at a country sports festival, Packham retweeted a comment by Mark Avery, from the campaign group Wild Justice. “Adam, did you say this? And what else did you say in favour of, or critical of shooting, please?” demanded Avery – making sure to tag in the BBC and Countryfile. Does Packham think other green-fingered telly presenters are less entitled to their opinions than him? I’m sure we’ll find out soon. 


Rishi’s support boost

Those tuning in to Monday’s Tory leadership hustings might have been surprised to see how much support there was in the audience for Rishi Sunak. Despite the former chancellor being down in the polls, he was greeted by rapturous applause and cheering from members in Exeter – far outstripping the welcome for his rival, Liz Truss. What those at home might have missed is that most of the cheering was coming from two women standing right behind the camera and microphone. Which makes sense, given that they both work for Sunak’s campaign. 


Bounceback

Pulses were set racing in Whitehall amid rumours of a surprise sacking of the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case. A former aide to Prince William, he has stood by Boris Johnson throughout his recent woes. But on Thursday, emails to the mandarin’s account started bouncing back, with an error message suggesting that he no longer existed as a member of staff in the Cabinet Office.

Could one of Johnson’s last acts in government have been to sack one of his most loyal officials? Alas. The issues were caused by an IT upgrade. 


Tikked-Off

China hawks in the Tory party have managed to get Parliament’s official TikTok account closed down over concerns about data being transferred abroad and used for nefarious means. But there is still a prolific user of the Chinese-owned app in Westminster: Nadine Dorries. The Culture Secretary has become something of a hit online, posting videos of herself wearing aviator sunglasses at the recent Top Gun premiere and footage of politicians celebrating the Lionesses’ second goal in the Euros final from their VIP box.

But TikTok itself has not always been a supporter of her content. A recent video of Dorries riding in a self-driving vehicle was accompanied by a warning to users: “Participating in this activity could result in you or others getting hurt.” So much for cracking down on online harms. 


The Bond connection

Truss surprised Tory members in Cardiff this week by revealing that her favourite song is Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger, but she’s not the only 007 fan in the Cabinet. The current PM has been known to make the odd reference to the debonair spy and once hired out the Downing Street briefing room to screen one of his films. It was just before he left office after the Suez Crisis that Anthony Eden flew to Jamaica to relax on Ian Fleming’s resort, GoldenEye. In Whitehall this week the PM was nowhere to be seen. It would have been a fitting finale to Boris’s premiership if he had done the same. 


Peterborough, published every Friday at 7pm, is edited by Christopher Hope, the Telegraph's chief political correspondent and the author of the daily Chopper's Politics newsletter. You can reach him at [email protected]