Furious Tory activists accuse Sasha Swire of ‘betraying friends’

Oh dear the “toilet seats” seem to be suffering from a sense of humour failure at the moment and the secret diaries aren’t even published yet.

Looks to Owl that EDDC Conservative Councillor Maddy Chapman, Exmouth Brixington, will be crossing Hugo Swire off her Christmas List as well.

(Will Hugo notice, Owl wonders?)

from Nick Constable www.dailymail.co.uk 

The wife of ex-Minister Hugo Swire has been accused by furious Tory activists in his former constituency of ‘betraying’ friends with her indiscretion-heavy memoir.

Sasha Swire’s tell-all book – Diary Of An MP’s Wife: Inside And Outside Power – lifts the lid on sex and political shenanigans in the party, describing David Cameron as ‘drunken Dave’ with a filthy mouth, Boris Johnson as ‘calculating’ and Theresa May as a ‘glumbucket’.

Lady Swire, 57, sent her diaries to a publisher last year after her husband retired as East Devon MP.

Last night Maddy Chapman, a Conservative district councillor there for 12 years, said local party members were ‘absolutely disgusted’ at the way she had breached the confidence of friends.

Sasha Swire, pictured with husband Hugo, has been accused by furious Tory activists in his former constituency of ‘betraying’ friends with her indiscretion-heavy memoir

‘She has shown herself for what she is,’ said Mrs Chapman. ‘She has absolutely no class whatsoever.

‘This has not gone down at all well in the constituency. Everyone I speak to is less than impressed and some, including myself, are absolutely disgusted.

‘Sasha Swire has never mixed within the local community, not even within our local party.

‘I suspect a lot of people will be crossing the Swires off their Christmas card list.


[Cllr Maddy Chapman’s claim that Lady Sasha “has absolutely no class whatsoever”, misses the point. Sasha operates in a class way beyond Maddy’s. Completely different rules apply – Owl]

Mrs Swire’s Diary……..a constituent’s view

From a constituent:

If, as she reports, Mrs Swire was her husband’s “part-time” political researcher surely we are due a refund on the £35,000 FULL-TIME salary WE paid her during that time?

Did this “research” for which we paid include endless poor taste remarks about sex and the cupping the testacles of at least one man in public?  Are we due co-author payments?

Who are the “toilet seat” East Devon Tory councillors?  And what does this soubriquet mean?  Were they simply there for Hugo to defacate on?

What really happened with the (young, female) Guatemalan ambassador (we await Hugo’s diary for that one perhaps).

And why and how did Nadine Dorries ever get in the position where (she alleges) she was offered a chance to “feel the mink” under Hugo’s coat in the back of a taxi?

How did Hugo REALLY feel about Claire Wright? [Owl has been asked to insert this photograph as a possible potential diarist clue]:

This constituent can’t wait for Hugo to write HIS diaries …

June 10th: made honey with my bees …..

July 20th: Sasha cupped X’s danglers again – what a lark – the toilet seats were shocked

August 15th: had another unavoidable meeting with toilet seats – God how I want to be back with my honey …..

Why Boris Johnson is constantly surprised when his government fails

A Government aided by “superforcasters” who struggle to see into next week and are particularly bad at forecasting the consequences of their own actions.

Andrew Rawnsley www.theguardian.com 

When Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner published their much-discussed book, Superforecasting, one admiring reviewer thought it contained essential lessons for governing. He wrote: “Forecasts have been fundamental to mankind’s journey from a small tribe on the African savannah to a species that can sling objects across the solar system with extreme precision. In physics, we developed models that are extremely accurate across vastly different scales from the sub-atomic to the visible universe. In politics, we bumbled along making the same sort of errors repeatedly.”

Presumably in the hope of improving the government’s powers of prediction, Dominic Cummings, for he was that reviewer, put Superforecasting on the summer reading list that he issued to ministerial advisers. Alas, it does not appear to have enhanced the ability of the prime minister, his visually challenged colleague or anyone else in this government to see into the future. These are members of a regime that struggles to see into next week. They are particularly terrible at forecasting the consequences of their own actions.

The expression on the face of Number 10 is that of a man who never looks where he is going and is then constantly surprised to find that he has stepped in dog excrement. There is an ever lengthening list of things that they could be reasonably expected to have anticipated and yet didn’t. They did not foresee that using an algorithm to depress the A-level grades of thousands of young people would distress them and dismay their parents. They did not foresee that a campaign fronted by an eloquent football star to extend the provision of free school meals would strike a chord with the public. They did not foresee that applying a surcharge to foreign-born workers staffing the NHS would cause a massive backlash.

Multiple debacles, rebellions and reverses have even some of those who were once Boris Johnson’s most fervent cheerleaders in despair. This persistent blundering has flowed from a fundamental inability to read the public mood or get on top of events. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the government has been constantly behind the curve. How did Mr Cummings put it? “We bumble along making the same sort of errors repeatedly.”

They are no better in their specialist subject of Brexit. When Mr Johnson signed the withdrawal agreement with the EU that he sold to the British public as “fantastic”, he failed to foresee that he would soon afterwards describe the agreement as so dreadful that he would have to threaten to break it. When he made the declaration that he was ready to violate international law, he failed to foresee that this would trigger condemnation from every living former prime minister and many senior Brexiters.

In normal times, this inability to anticipate the consequences of its own decisions would be an embarrassing trait in a government. In the context of the Covid catastrophe, it is a deadly characteristic. When infection rates were surging across Europe at the outset of the pandemic, ministers did not foresee that it would be folly to allow race meetings and football matches to carry on as normal. Among other things they did not foresee was the fatal consequences of decanting elderly patients from hospitals into care homes without first checking whether they were free of the virus.

Seven months into the pandemic, and with alarming signs of a swelling second wave, some have learned from the benefit of experience. Scientists have a better understanding of the virus and doctors have improved their methods of treatment. Yet the government’s skills of prognostication are not showing a matching degree of improvement. As the number of hospitalisations accelerates upwards, roughly doubling every eight days, it has again been found wanting in relation to testing for infection. There is particular anger among MPs and those they represent in virus hotspots, where it is particularly vital that testing happens rapidly, that people are being told there are no appointments available or that they will have to travel hundreds of miles to get a swab.

In response to the outcry, Dido Harding, the Johnson-appointed head of the testing effort in England, tried to argue that the system is the victim of an unanticipated surge in demand. Not so. This spike was both predictable and predicted. Since the early summer, the government has been urging people to return to the office and bring “bustle” back to high streets. Many Britons have been travelling around the country or holidaying abroad. The reopening of schools has brought the usual seasonal spread of start-of-term coughs and sniffles. You didn’t need to be the world’s smartest epidemiologist to anticipate that a large expansion of social contact would increase the potential vectors of infection for disease. And that, in turn, would lead to a surge in demand for tests.

Sometimes ministers have foolishly implied that the public is at fault for putting too much stress on the system. It is true that there are people without symptoms seeking tests because a family member or workmate may have contracted the virus. It is entirely natural that people will take a precautionary approach. “Play it safe” has been the thrust of government advice for months. That has been accompanied by repeated ministerial exhortations to remember that the disease can often be asymptomatic, especially among younger people. Public expectation that the system would have the capacity to provide a test to anyone who wanted one has been further fuelled by the constant prime ministerial hyperbole that the government is building a “world-beating” system. In mid-July, Matt Hancock implied universal availability by urging people to get tested if they had “any doubt” about being infected. Now the health secretary plans to ration access.

The testing chaos, coming in the wake of so many other fiascos, has the Tory press beginning to wonder whether Mr Johnson is fit to be in Number 10. “WHY ARE THEY STILL FAILING THE TEST?” demands the Daily Mail. “Losing Track” and “Johnson Adrift” were the lead editorials on successive days in the Times. The cover headline of the most recent edition of the Spectator, which is usually very friendly to its former editor, asks “Where’s Boris?” and is accompanied by a cartoon depicting him alone in an oarless boat on a heaving sea.

This echoes the wail of Tory backbenchers that the prime minister needs to “get a grip” and “rediscover his mojo” and “give us a sense of direction”. The implication is that the remedy for a wretched performance is for Mr Johnson to impose more of his personality on the government.

This has it precisely the wrong way round. His character is the central source of the repeated inability to anticipate and address challenges. All governments absorb the character traits of the person at the top. The person at the top of this government doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions, is cavalier about detail and bored by complexity, prefers the quick hit of a snappy populist slogan to the steady slog of competent administration. All this was known about him long before the Tory party made him its leader. His flaws as a prime minister are a revelation only to those who wilfully ignored his biography and his record.

He has spent a career living for today and letting tomorrow take care of itself. Colleagues and ex-wives can testify to his compulsion for over-promising and then under-delivering. He has been a gusher of dramatic and bogus predictions of what his government will achieve – “a moonshot” this, a “game-changing” that – because spouting wildly boosterish claims is so much easier than getting stuff done.

Funnily enough, the book Superforecasting identifies one of the core reasons why this government is failing. “The worst forecasters were those with great self-confidence who stuck to their big ideas,” wrote Mr Cummings himself. They are lousy at understanding the world and coming to good judgments about it. “The more successful were those who were cautious, humble, numerate, actively open-minded, looked at many points of view.” Now, which is a better description of the Johnson-Cummings method of government? “Cautious, humble, numerate, actively open-minded, looked at many points of view”? That doesn’t sound like them at all. “Great self-confidence”, which leaves them stubbornly wedded to their “big ideas”? That’s much more like it.

Their biggest idea of the moment is that leaving the EU’s single market without a deal would be fine even in a double-whammy combination with a re-escalation of the coronavirus crisis. Bear in mind his previous record as a soothsayer when the prime minister confidently predicts that a crash-out Brexit would be a “good outcome”. I hazard a guess that this is his most calamitously wrong forecast of all.

  • Andrew Rawnsley is Chief Political Commentator of the Observer


Hands, face, space? Johnson’s Covid message has got priorities wrong, scientists warn

The latest drive to help halt the spread of Covid-19 has been criticised by senior scientists for placing insufficient emphasis on the issues of ventilation and the need to stay apart from others.

They say the government’s “hands, face, space” campaign stresses handwashing and the wearing of masks as key factors in controlling coronavirus transmission, while the need to keep apart has been downplayed, despite it being the single critical factor involved in the spread of Covid-19.

“As long as people keep emphasising handwashing over aerosol transmission and ventilation, you are not going to control this pandemic,” virologist Julian Tang, of Leicester Royal Infirmary, told the Observer.

He pointed to studies that suggest contact is the cause of transmission of the Covid-19 virus in only about 20% of cases while aerosol transmission, often in poorly ventilated rooms, accounted for the rest.

He was backed by the anthropologist Jennifer Cole, at Royal Holloway, University of London, who said the government’s recommendations had been placed in the wrong order.

“Space is the largest mitigating factor in the spread of Covid-19, indoors or outdoors. Wearing a face covering does not make it entirely safe to go within 2 metres of others; keeping your distance is still the best strategy,” she said. “Handwashing is important, but surface transmission plays a much smaller role than exhaled droplets, so it is odd that ‘hands’ has been listed first.”

Cole said this emphasis could lead to unnecessary concern over the likelihood of surface transmission from groceries, mail and other deliveries. At the same time, physical distancing was sometimes difficult in an indoor setting, she acknowledged. If so, people should simply not enter. “They should not just assume that a face covering and washing their hands will protect them if they do.”

This point was also emphasised by Tang. “The only thing that really works against this disease is keeping distant from other people. The trouble is that when a situation looks worrying, for instance on public transport, you can ramp up your precautions.

“The trouble comes when you relax – for example in the pub – and you don’t keep your distance and your friends shout loudly to be heard and the virus gets sprayed about. That is why we are getting outbreaks – because people are not keeping their distance and not applying rules as they might elsewhere.”

The failure to emphasise the critical importance of aerosol transmission was outlined in a letter to the World Health Organization, signed by several hundred scientists earlier this year. “Current guidance from numerous international and national bodies focuses on handwashing, maintaining social distancing, and droplet precautions but … do not recognise airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures in healthcare settings.

“Handwashing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people,” the letter states.

The WHO originally placed little importance on aerosol transmission, said Tang, but changed its guidelines in July in response to the letter and now recognises its importance, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces.

“Unfortunately, people are still not getting the message – that is why they have got that hand, face, space message the wrong way round. It should be space first – and by a long stretch. Then think about your hands and face. Until we get that right we are going to continue to be in trouble.”

Will Hugo Swire have to “buy new friends”?

Sasha Swire’s diaries. Truth about the Cameron years – but not the whole truth. Not by a long shot.



….To judge from the extracts, the diaries are a mash-up of the perceptive and the delusional, bound together by a blithe disregard for discretion.  Which would make Swire a natural diarist.

A story, doubtless untrue, is doing the rounds.  That it was put to Hugo Swire, her ex-Conservative MP husband, that the diaries’ publication will [lose] them friends.  “I suppose so,” he is said to have replied.  “In which case, I’ll just have to buy some new ones.”

Whether apocryphal or not, that catches the flavour of the extracts: they paint a picture of a self-perpetuating elite which believed it was born to rule.  There is enough truth in the charge for the ever-alert George Osborne to have launched a salvage operation………


Good news for local Tories – Sasha has more embarrassing diaries to come

Local Tory “Foot Soldiers” (dotty as the church stalwarts in The Vicar of Dibley) and councillors (Toilet Seats) must be waiting anxiously for publication of the “Secret Diaries” on 24 September to see whether their hard work for the party has “earned” them a name check. 

If they have been ignored this time, all is not lost because:

Sasha Swire has plenty more embarrassing diaries to come

David Sanderson, Arts Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk

Westminster, take a deep breath: Sasha Swire has years of diary entries still to be published.

With the dust refusing to settle after the serialisation of Lady Swire’s diaries, it can be revealed that there is plenty more where that came from.

The wife of the former Conservative minister Sir Hugo Swire has already embarrassed swathes of the body politic with her indiscretion-heavy memoir, which is due to be published next week.

Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power, which was serialised in The Times, revealed the sex-laden jokes and drinking habits of David Cameron as well as insights into the behaviour and relationships of those surrounding him during his years in power.

Mr Cameron acknowledged this week that revelations about his behaviour in private being “splashed all over the place” were embarrassing.

He insisted, however, that he could not remember walking behind Lady Swire on a coastal walk and telling her: “The scent you are wearing is affecting my pheromones. It makes me want to grab you and push you into the bushes and give you one.”

Lady Swire’s literary agent, Caroline Dawnay, confirmed yesterday that more embarrassing details about Britain’s ruling classes could lie ahead.

“She has diaries from before and after,” Ms Dawnay said. “But she has not decided whether to publish them. She will definitely write something brilliant again though.”

The published diary begins on May 12, 2010, days after the general election, which had resulted in a hung parliament, as Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, then the leader of the Liberal Democrats, put together their coalition government.

The next day Sir Hugo, an Old Etonian like Mr Cameron and Boris Johnson, is appointed a minister in the Northern Ireland Office. He later becomes a minister in the Foreign Office. The memoir ends in late 2019 after Sir Hugo’s retirement as an MP.

Lady Swire confesses to being “a secret journal writer since childhood”. She says in the preface to her forthcoming memoir that she had never intended to publish them but after her husband’s retirement she had “somewhat foolishly” shown Ms Dawnay extracts and was swiftly “swept up into a publishing tornado”.

While Sir Hugo’s years in government only began in 2010, he was in the Conservative inner circles for many years beforehand.

The former Sotheby’s director was elected to parliament in 2001 and two years later became an opposition whip. In 2004 he was promoted to shadow culture minister, a position he lost in 2007 after a suggestion that the Conservatives would scrap the policy of free entry to the national museums.

Lady Swire was his part-time political researcher during the period.


‘Subdued’ PM ‘worries about money’ after salary shrank to £150k

Boris Johnson‘s close friends and colleagues say the ‘subdued’ and ‘moody’ Prime Minister is worrying and complaining about money after his earnings shrank from over £350,000 a year down to £150,000.

Jack Wright www.dailymail.co.uk

Those in contact with Mr Johnson claim the embattled premier, usually jovial and ebullient, has ‘misery etched on his face’ as he struggles to cope with ever-growing political and personal pressures.

The Prime Minister is understood to detest being ‘at the helm in rough seas’ as his ‘longstanding tendency for dark moods’ is exacerbated by coronavirus and Brexit – which threaten to jeopardise his standing at the next General Election. 

Meanwhile friends allege that he is worrying about money, having sacrificed his Daily Telegraph column (£275,000) and lucrative speaking engagements for his prime ministerial salary (£150,000).

Mr Johnson is complaining about supporting four of his six children through university and coming out the other side of an expensive divorce from his ex-wife Marina Wheeler. His use of the flat he shares with fiancee Carrie Symonds above No 11 is taxed as a benefit in kind, while he also has to pay for food sent up from the Downing Street kitchen. All of this has left the ‘badly served’ Prime Minister in a foul mood, without a housekeeper and ‘worried about being able to afford a nanny’ for baby Wilfred, his friends claim

Though this is a tidy sum of money for most, Mr Johnson is complaining about supporting four of his six children through university and coming out the other side of an expensive divorce from his ex-wife Marina Wheeler. 

His use of the flat he shares with fiancee Carrie Symonds, with whom he had newborn baby Wilfred this year, above No 11 is taxed as a benefit in kind, while he also has to pay for food sent up from the Downing Street kitchen.

The couple are even presented with a bill by the Government if they want to host friends at Mr Johnson’s Chequers country retreat.

All of this has left the ‘badly served’ Prime Minister in a foul mood, complaining about money and worrying about ‘being able to afford a nanny’ as he invests all his time and energy into governing, his friends have claimed.  

One friend told The Times: ‘Boris, like other prime ministers, is very, very badly served. He doesn’t have a housekeeper – he has a single cleaner and they’re worried about being able to afford a nanny. 

‘He’s stuck in the flat and Downing Street is not a nice place to live. It’s not like the Élysée or the White House where you can get away from it all because they’re so big.’

Senior Conservatives who meet regularly with the Prime Minister said the twin crises of coronavirus and Brexit have knocked his confidence and usual optimism……….  

………….’This is all weighing very heavily on him. I think you can see it even in some of his public appearances – the sort of misery etched on his face. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying being at the helm in rough seas,’ a Tory said.

‘He just seemed subdued. He was engaged but he certainly wasn’t as lively as you’d expect,’ said another. ‘You can speculate – does that go back to the illness? Is it the weight of responsibility or is it maybe just a recognition that he’s not always very well briefed on things? Most likely it’s some combination of all those.’ 


Aldi plans to open a store in Axminster as part of carpet factory mixed development

German discount supermarket chain Aldi is planning to open a store in Axminster.

Chris Carson www.midweekherald.co.uk /

It hopes to build a foodstore as part of a planned mixed-use development on surplus land on the Axminster Carpets estate, off Musbury Road.

In a statement Axminster Carpets Limited (ACL) has said: “ACL Properties is proposing to develop surplus land on the eastern part of the Axminster Carpets estate.

“This is the first phase of a long-term plan for the consolidation and regeneration of the estate and modernisation of the carpet business.

“The proposal is for a mixed-use development featuring a new Aldi supermarket foodstore and a number of houses fronting Musbury Road.

“We would like to share these proposals with those living and working in the area and invite views on the proposed development before submitting an outline planning application to East Devon District Council later this year..

“Due to the current restrictions on public gatherings, the consultation will be held online.”

Further information on the proposals and a survey can be found at http://www.axminsterregeneration.co.uk from Monday (September 21). Paper copies can also be requested from Avril Baker Consultancy on 0117 977 2022 or e mail info@abc-pr.co.uk