Anyone still wondering whether Zelo Street was right to call out the Murdoch mafiosi for being behind the recent manoeuvres of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson need look no further than the front page of today’s Sunday Times. The knife has been well and truly unsheathed and plunged into Theresa May’s back, even to the extent of pulling a mental health smear.
The headline says it all: around a distinctly unflattering photo of the PM, readers are told “Queen ‘misled’ by broken May … Fury in palace and panic at No 10 as premier wept … Johnson believes ‘she will be gone in a year’”. On inside pages, we can read all about “Leader on the verge of a nervous breakdown”. We should be left in no doubt that this is someone not up to the job, cracking under the strain.
One look at Tim Shipman’s lead article confirms the intention: “Buckingham Palace was left infuriated with Theresa May’s behaviour after her General Election disaster plunged the Prime Minister into a personal ‘crisis of confidence’ … Senior courtiers were exasperated that May misled the Queen by saying she had a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), only to take another 17 days to nail it down, and then went on to breach protocol in the way she announced her intention to form a Government”.
There was more. “Following the inferno at Grenfell Tower the week after the election, Downing Street staff became so worried about the Prime Minister’s welfare that one suggested sending for an SAS soldier to give her a pep talk to boost her resilience”.
Across the page, the ST lets its readers know whose opinion they have sought out to read the runes and pontificate on the Tories’ future. Yes, Bozza. A congenital liar whose only priority is the shameless promotion of Himself Personally Now.
Now, all of what Shipman says about Ms May might be spot on. That is not the point. The timing of these revelations - at the beginning of what is likely to prove a difficult party Conference for both her and the Tories - is where the Murdoch mafiosi is at. This is about destabilising the PM and her party because her culture secretary has delayed the Sky bid - and maybe scuppered it in doing so - and therefore incurred their displeasure.
Bozza is being weaponised by the Murdochs for two good reasons - he has the necessary visibility, and they can manipulate him. Exactly what leverage they have on Johnson has been hinted at widely in the media, even by his Spectator successor Fraser Nelson. But once again, Tim Shipman is proving quite the expert, this time in coded language.
This passage from his offerings today bears close scrutiny: “The belief among some MPs that Johnson wants to be sacked was fuelled by claims that he recently told a friend that he was running out of money and could not afford to live on a cabinet minister’s salary - £141,505 - because of his extensive family responsibilities”.
“Extensive family responsibilities” is the phrase that will provoke much stroking of chins and thoughtful nodding today. It also tells anyone who needs to know that Bozza is on a political suicide mission and won’t get the Top Job. I’ll just leave that one there.