Britain’s gold rush at the Tokyo Olympics continues apace and no doubt former prime minister Sir John Major feels entitled to bask in reflected glory.
After all, it was his government that set up the National Lottery in 1994, which has since poured hundreds of millions of pounds into Team GB.
But the Lottery almost never happened, as Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC, reminds us.
In January 1992, Lawrence, then the Tory MP for Burton, in Staffordshire, introduced a Private Member’s Bill to establish a national lottery.
The National Lottery in 1994, has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into Team GB. (Pictured, Gold medalist Max Whitlock of Team Great Britain)
Major’s government opposed it, banned ministers from voting for it, and Lawrence’s Bill was lost by 16 votes.
Journalists were then briefed that the idea of any such lottery was dead and buried because of its impact on existing charity lotteries and because the government did not want to be seen to be encouraging gambling.
But Major had not reckoned on the public backlash this rejection would provoke. Sir Ivan recalls: ‘When it became obvious through every media channel that the people were massively behind a national lottery — and the PM desperately needed a turnaround in support to win the 1992 general election — Major changed his mind.’
Hey presto, the National Lottery White Paper was published in March 1992, one month before the general election.
‘John Major won the election with the largest vote any prime minister in this country had ever received,’ Lawrence says, with some satisfaction.
No wonder Major knighted his saviour that same year.
Oh no, foiled again
Tory MP Gyles Brandreth, pictured, recalls how, 25 years ago, he took double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Sebastian Coe to a school in Chester to show the pupils his medals
More Olympic reminiscences, this time from former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth.
He recalls how, 25 years ago, he took double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Sebastian Coe to a school in Chester to show the pupils his medals.
‘While Seb was giving his talk, one seven-year-old sneaked a medal off the table and spent a frantic few minutes trying to tear off the “gold foil” to get at the chocolate,’ Gyles chirps.
SNP MP Margaret Ferrier is advertising for a chief of staff who is a ‘horizon-scanning candidate’ and can ‘pro-actively identify problems and resolve them’. Ferrier certainly faces one problem. Later this year, she’ll appear in court charged with culpable and reckless conduct for travelling from London to Glasgow in 2020 after testing positive for Covid.
Sacked as Attorney General by the PM, Geoffrey Cox is now paid £468,000 a year as consultant global counsel to Withers solicitors and also received £156,916 from them relating to a recent case, plus £280,000 from other law firms in the past year. He also trousers his £82,000 MP’s salary. But how does he find time to serve the good folk of Torridge and West Devon?
Jasset Ormsby-Gore, also known as the 7th Baron Harlech, was sworn in last week as the youngest member of the House of Lords after winning an hereditary peers by-election.
Young Lord Harlech, 35, should be a colourful addition to the House if he is anything like his late grandfather.
David Ormsby-Gore was not only the founder of Harlech Television (HTV), a former Tory minister and British Ambassador to Washington, but once proposed marriage to Jackie Kennedy.
When a fellow pupil at Eton killed himself, young David’s housemaster asked whether any of the boys knew why this tragedy might have happened.
‘Please, sir,’ said the future diplomat, ‘could it have been the food?’
Could Rory return to the Tories
Stewart, who stood down as an MP in 2019, now admits to a reluctant admiration for the PM
After rebelling on Brexit, former Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart had the party whip removed by Boris Johnson.
Stewart, who stood down as an MP in 2019, now admits to a reluctant admiration for the PM: ‘I find him infuriating, but there is something mesmerising about him. With all the things that appal me about his moral character, he is much more interesting than David Cameron or Theresa May.’
Praise indeed from the arch- Remainer. Anyone would think Stewart wants to get back into the Tory party.