Outranking Cleverly

James Cleverly
James Cleverly

Testing times at the Home Office where James Cleverly – the new Home Secretary – will have to give orders to James Sunderland, his Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Both Tory MPs have military backgrounds, but Sunderland holds the senior rank. Cleverly, was commissioned into the Army Reserve in 1991, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Sunderland signed up as an officer in 1993. He held the rank of Colonel by the time he retired in 2019, a month before entering Parliament.

Friends of Sunderland are relaxed about a more junior officer bossing him around. One says: “Senior officers have got his back.”

Whither the Commonwealth?

Evidence of more careless treatment of the Commonwealth by the Foreign and, er, Commonwealth Office which is refusing to fly its flag all year round.

This week Rishi Sunak organised a Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court, for half a dozen Cabinet ministers to schmooze bankers and bosses at the home of Henry VIII (afternoon tea provided by Fortnum & Mason).

The event cut across a two-day Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit, attended by 300 senior business executives from 40 Commonwealth countries. The Foreign Office told me it sent officials to the event, which it did not organised. However it admitted that no ministers were there. One top level attendee told me: “It’s a disgrace and a joke.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told me: “This event was an opportunity to bring together business leaders with experts to discuss trade and investment in the Commonwealth.” But for me, despite Brexit, the Commonwealth is still not being treated respectfully by ministers.

Order, St Patrick!

To boost links with Northern Ireland, should the Government resurrect the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick?
While the Irish associated Order has existed since 1783, no knight of St Patrick has been created since 1936, and the last surviving knight, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974.

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell asked in the Commons for the Government to make an assessment about the merits of restoring it “as an active chivalric order” and to examine “the impact of such a policy on the state of the Union”. Scotland has the Order of the Thistle.

Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker replies sniffily that “the UK Government is not at present considering the restoration of the Order of St Patrick,” adding that its “statutes have not been updated since the 19th century.”

More imagination required, Steve!

Nigel’s too nice for ITV

Former I’m A Celebrity... contestant Edwina Currie has waded into the controversy over the programme’s editing of Nigel Farage, saying ITV bosses have been left in a panic because Farage has turned out to be “affable”.

The ex-Tory minister told GB News: “There’s loads and loads of footage. All of it is edited. And what they’re looking for is an interesting narrative arc. I suspect that they’re disappointed, because Nigel’s turned out to be affable and pleasant, polite, and competent.

“If that is the real Nigel, he’s a much nicer person than everybody was expecting.”

When Baz caddied for Bill

The links between former Arts Council and ITV boss Sir Peter “Baz” Bazalgette and this Peterborough column run deep, he told me, when I bumped into him in Parliament this week.

Baz used to caddy for his stockbroker father Paul and former Daily Telegraph editor Sir Bill Deedes at Littlestone Golf Club, Kent in the 1960s. “Bill used to spend his time scouring the club’s noticeboard for ideas for Peterborough,” Baz told me. Nothing has changed, I am afraid.

Boris’s Christmas message

Plop! The first Parliamentary Christmas card of the season arrives on my doormat from Tory MP Nigel Evans, deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. Evans features with Boris, Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s parrot, perched on his shoulder. “He doesn’t half repeat himself,” says Boris. “Order, order, order. That’s all he says.” Nigel or Lindsay?

Francois summoned home

Tory MP Mark Francois was in Washington this week, meeting US politicians with former Tory leaders Liz Truss and Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

But the Brexit-backing Tory was brought down to earth by having to travel back early to open a new Aldi supermarket and then turn on the Christmas lights in his constituency

“This job may be many things – but it’s certainly not boring,” he says.

Peterborough, published every Friday at 7pm, is edited by Christopher Hope. You can reach him at

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