What nudged Boris towards Brexit?

A tennis racket and a set of balls was all it took to make up Boris Johnson's mind.


Get a grip: Brexit it will be

At least Boris didn't make his Brexit decision on an empty stomach. First there was roast lamb in Islington with Michael Gove. Then dinner at his farmhouse in Oxfordshire with sister Rachel. Armed with "a frozen lasagne", Rachel drove down to see him through the sleet to find, on arrival, that although her brother had emailed "Dave" warning of his likely decision, his mind, as he put it, was still "flashing like a traffic light". The fat lady had yet to sing.

Rachel "slammed the lasagne in the oven" and went off with Boris to play a wet game of tennis. On their way to the court, she says in The Mail on Sunday, he pointed at his mud-encrusted shoes. "Nike trainers. Wilson tennis balls and Prince racket. These are American companies they're not part of Europe, are they? Hasn't stopped us buying their products, has it?" After this important thought, and a soggy game of tennis, they rescued the lasagne and Boris "grabbed a bottle of Burgundy from the side" to wash it down. By coffee time, Boris seemed finally to have made up his mind: Brexit it would be.

Shabby days at Downing Street

In 1997, during the early days of Tony Blair's premiership, his wife Cherie "festered with mounting resentment" about the way his advisers excluded her from discussions about affairs of state, according to a new book serialised in the Daily Mail. There were other arguments too. Mrs Blair had agreed with Gordon Brown that her family would move into the bigger flat in 11 Downing Street, while the then chancellor would occupy the smaller one above Number 10.

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But as soon as she got there, says the writer Tom Bower, she complained to Robin Butler, the cabinet secretary, about the "shabby" state of the place. "The carpet was worn, the kitchen was old, her daughter's mattress needed replacing andthe stale smell of cigars smoked by former Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke had infused every fabric." Tony Blair wasn't impressed either. "I won't sleep in Ken Clarke's bed," he declared. So their first night in Downing Street was spent in a brass bed shipped over from their home in Islington.

The bed was soon replaced by a new one costing £3,500, bought by Cherie's close friend and "lifestyle adviser", Carole Caplin. Nor, says Bower, was she keen on Ken Clarke's loo. "His lavatory is cracked!" she complained to Robin Butler, adding that she also needed a new dustbin. None of this may seem unreasonable, but Butler "felt insulted by Cherie's haughty tone", says Bower. Indeed, her "prickly attitude" towards staff was evident "from the moment she entered Downing Street and dumped her bags at the entrance door, expecting someone to carry them upstairs".

Poor Cherie. Trapped in that not-very-large-house with her husband and Alastair Campbell and all those awful hangers-on. It's hard to feel much sympathy for her, but I do feel a little. Life at the top is rarely as smooth as it may seem from the outside, and this seems to have been especially true during the Blair years.

Tabloid money "It was Emma's whine wot done it"


"Who would have thought that it would be Emma Thompson who helped get us out of the EU?" asks The Sun in an editorial. "The leftie-luvvie's dismissal of Britain as a cake-filled, misery-laden, grey old island' turns out to have been the final straw for Boris, driving him into the Out camp and transforming the prospects for the referendum. If we do decide to leave, there'll be something rather wonderful in the fact that it was Emma's whine wot done it."

"Here's the latest snippet of brilliance from American academics," says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "The working-class characters in children's films are too happy. They don't know the grinding misery and hardship of working-class life. Such as the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. He's always grinning like an idiot. And singing. And he says he likes being a chimney sweep.

The film doesn't show him eating gruel because he's skint and dying of emphysema from all the soot in his lungs. So it's unrealistic. I suppose what he should have done was strangle Mary Poppins (pictured) for being bourgeois and then pushed her off the roof. What about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Hi ho, hi ho, it's out on strike we go, you pale-skinned, middle-class cow.'"

Saudi billionaire Sheikh Walid Juffali, says Jane Moore in The Sun, "is in the middle of a messy divorce from estranged wife Christina Estrada, who claims he divorced' her in his home country without her knowledge and isn't paying her enough. She says she needs two butlers, not one, and three maids, not two. As you do."

"France is asking Google to cough up £1.3bn in back taxes," writes John Prescott in the Sunday Mirror. That's ten times what George Osborne managed, and he thought it "a major success'".