Yesterday it was WikiLeak’s turn to bare all when Associated Press got hold of a data dump from the controversial website — much of it dealing with Julian Assange’s efforts to avoid arrest when first accused of sexual assault eight years ago.
The documents include a request for a visa from the Russian Embassy and even an evacuation plan to escape to Brazil by boat.
There is also an intriguing spreadsheet called “Get Out of Jail Free”. It lists those that Assange and his followers believe would stump up bail after the WikiLeaks founder’s arrest in London back in 2010.
Many of them subsequently did — including publisher Felix Dennis, film-maker Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, who were thought to have been targeted for £20,000 each.
Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith donated £12,000 and housed Assange for some weeks in his Norfolk manor after the bail hearing. But unexpected names also appear, including Lord Matthew Evans, the late chairman of Faber and Faber, and William Sieghart, Forward Poetry Prize founder. Sieghart told us this morning, “First I’ve heard of it.”
Documents show the plan to get Assange to Brazil “and pay the bail money back to his supporters” was hatched at the Frontline Club in Paddington, owned by Smith.
“I had no idea of his intentions,” Smith told us this morning. “I’m not even sure of the legality of offering bail if you know someone’s a flight risk.”
On Assange’s eventual escape to the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he remains, Smith adds: “I appreciated that he felt very insecure.
“He hadn’t been treated fairly and was at risk of being sent to America.
“Obviously, it was depressing to lose 12 grand because I could have used it for my family. I understand why he did it though.”
Despite this, Smith remains a supporter. “I don’t think he’s motivated by self-interest. The whole thing has been politicised to minimise the effect of WikiLeaks. Holing him up in the embassy is part of that.”
John McDonnell’s fee-payer vote
John McDonnell told pupils at Millfield School in Somerset yesterday that the People’s Vote remained an option in the absence of an election, despite saying last month: “We have to be extremely careful about a second referendum.”
The Shadow Chancellor is not a fan of private education, but asked rapt pupils “to think about inequality and housing problems”, a source said. Afterwards he took an hour of unscripted questions “and was excellent”.
McDonnell has previously explained his brother-in-law sends his children to Millfield “against all my advice”.
Charlie Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers and a former Tory donor, has stuck an enormous sign on the roof of his Waterloo HQ that reads: “Bollocks to Brexit: It’s not a done deal.” Mullins, who now backs the Lib-Dems, slammed Theresa May last week, saying: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t have a worse person trying to negotiate the future of our country.”
Nigel Farage loves all things Donald Trump, including, apparently, hair dye. Appearing on TV yesterday, the ex-Ukip leader was sporting a shiny brown hairdo of rich chestnut, in distinct contrast to the greying locks on show during the 2016 referendum. Surely the clearest sign of his comeback plans yet?
C’mon Vogue... Madonna and Dame Anna strike a pose
Queen of Pop Madonna was at Dover Street Market yesterday with her friend fashion designer Stella McCartney, comedian Leigh Francis — aka Keith Lemon — and Vogue US editor Dame Anna Wintour. Madonna, who is currently recording a new album, recently moved to Lisbon from New York. “The first thing I did when I got there was to go to Sintra, which is a magical forest,” she said in a Vogue Italia profile. “There’s a lot of mystical energy there.” When she’s not in the woods, she spends most of her time taking her son to “soccer matches” and “riding horses on the beach”. She was in London last night for a book signing in Piccadilly for former tennis star Stan Smith’s new book Stan Smith: Some People Think I’m a Shoe.
Lib-Dem leader Vince Cable will close his party’s conference today by calling for a second vote and criticising Brexit as an “erotic spasm”. Cable (below) was not shortlisted for the Erotic Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his novel Open Arms last year as it was considered “too good” — despite one character wanting to explore his lover “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa”. “Erotic spasm”: an improvement, no?
Unite boss Len McCluskey fondly recalls belting out Sex on Fire in a karaoke session with Labour Deputy Tom Watson before the Kings of Leon fans fell out. Watson “tried to interfere in Unite’s democracy”, McCluskey tells Political Thinking. Of their lost friendship, he adds, “I’m sad... But I’m sure we’ll be able to sing together again.”
Sir Nicholas Soames blasts fellow Tory MP Owen Paterson for coming out against Chequers. “OhshutupSpode” was his rebuke. Note: Roderick Spode led the Black Shorts in PG Wodehouse’s novels. Confused?Roderick Spode leads the Black Shorts in PG Wodehouse’s novels.
Quote of the day
"Nice place for a healthy run." Health Secretary Matt Hancock gets some exercise on the Great Wall of China
Ohhh, Hugo Dixon
Hugo Dixon, editor and entrepreneur, is frequently stopped for selfies by people confusing him for Jeremy Corbyn. Says his daughter, Atalandi: “The best time was when we were having dinner in Notting Hill and he was talking loudly about the need for another referendum and the people next to us asked for a picture.
“He was like, ‘I’m not Jeremy Corbyn.’” Before leaving, the diners asked again for a picture “just in case”.
“And my dad obliged but said if he were Corbyn they would’ve just witnessed a pretty significant policy shift in Labour’s line on Brexit.”
Blake Lively was looking, well, lively in London last night. The American actor was at the BFI Southbank, wearing a pink three-piece suit for the premiere of her new thriller, A Simple Favour.