Arise, Lord Swire
Among the list of new peers being touted around Whitehall is one for Sir Hugo Swire, the Old Etonian former Foreign Office minister. The nomination has mystified some, because ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, who helped compile the list, and Swire are not thought to have been particularly close.
Swire, the deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, is understood to have been promised one when he stood down as an MP in 2019. But some peers joke that there is an ulterior motive: winding up David Cameron, who has not forgiven Swire’s wife Sasha for her excellent diary, which blew the lid off Cameron’s gilded gang of pals who ran the government. One Tory peer tells me: “Boris wants to make Hugo Swire a peer to make Cameron furious because of Sasha. He’s doing it for a laugh.”
Hogg’s bicycle chain
A gaggle of senior Tories gathered in Parliament earlier this month to mark the anniversary, 20 years ago last Thursday, of the 300,000-strong Countryside March.
The then-opposition chief whip David Maclean (now Lord Blencathra) recalled how he and others had fought to water down Labour’s hunting ban in Parliament.
“My abiding memory is of Douglas Hogg arriving to help with amendments at midnight in pyjamas and a greatcoat with a bicycle chain round his neck, apologising for being late since his bicycle chain broke.
“I wondered that if we failed, would it be then said that, for the want of a bicycle chain, the battle was lost.”
Bog-standard loo for Boris
There was an awkward moment for Boris Johnson when he flew to Scotland to meet the late Queen and resign as prime minister. At Aberdeen airport, he asked to use the lavatory in the Northern Lights executive lounge. The local staff were having none of it. My spy tells me: “Staff pointed him to the regular toilets as he didn’t have a business class ticket to get into the lounge.”
The diplomatic job of placing Royal attendees in their seats at the Queen’s funeral last Monday was given to members of the Guards’ regiments. Upon his arrival, Emperor Naruhito of Japan gave his name. Looking at his list, the Guardsman replied: “No, sorry, sir, I’ve not got an ‘Emperor’ here.” He then bellowed at a comrade: “You got anyone by the name of ‘Emperor’ on your list?”
The answer came back. “No, are you sure he’s not Alfonso, we’re waiting on an ‘Alfonso’.”
In the end, the Emperor of Japan was shuffled mid-aisle, a few rows back, next to King Abdullah of Malaysia.
Bryant’s big day
Monday’s state funeral brought back memories for Labour MP Chris Bryant, who, when he became the first gay MP to marry in Parliament in March 2010, was told that his guests could not come through Westminster Hall.
Sensing homophobia, Bryant was sharpening his quill for a letter of complaint when the Sergeant at Arms told him: “We are practising for the Queen’s funeral, sir.” Bryant put his pen down.
Early morning dips at McDavos
Former PM David Cameron, the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, Baroness Finn, Boris Johnson’s ex-deputy chief of staff, and ex-minister Lord Vaizey were at the Braemar Summit in Aberdeenshire last week. The “thought leadership in science” event at the luxurious Fife Arms hotel, dubbed “McDavos”, was “invitation only and privately funded”, the organisers tell me. The national mourning period was respected. One guest tells me: “We were very, very observant. We wore black. There were piped laments instead of cèilidhs.”
Broadcaster Rachel Johnson even led a group of hardy souls for “penitential early morning swims in the River Dee”, said a witness. It might have been easier to queue for Westminster Hall.
Gower’s stand for tradition
Former England cricket captain David Gower will open the batting for traditionalists who want to save the Eton/Harrow and Oxbridge cricket matches at Marylebone Cricket Club, at a special meeting of MCC members on Tuesday. Gower did not go to either public school. “I went to an older school than Eton or Harrow,” he tells me. (It was King’s, Canterbury.) He is clearly taking a principled stand.