Boris and 'FLOTUS' Carrie miss the ball
Carrie Symonds was notable by her absence at the Conservatives’ Black & White Ball last night. She had been expected by some to attend with her boyfriend Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary (FFS for short), in their first official public appearance together. But neither was there.
A case of a diary clash, or something else? I’m told there is friction between Symonds, former Tory director of communications, and some of the party faithful, including party chairman Brandon Lewis. She left her position in the party last summer, a source says, “under a real cloud”, adding that they were “not sure she [would] be welcomed back with open arms” at last night’s event. Symonds and Lewis, in particular, had a fractious working relationship — “they do not get on” — as “Brandon was cross that [Symonds] was only close to Brexiteers and would only promote Boris or Gove when she ran comms for the whole party”.
Symonds and Johnson became an item last year. They had been photographed together outside the 2018 Black & White Ball, seven months before Johnson and his wife Marina Wheeler announced they had quietly separated. The detractors, however, may simply be unable to fathom that Symonds has more important commitments in the diary. At the time of her resignation some assumed she would sidestep elsewhere in the Conservative Party. Instead, she moved to Bloomberg, where she does PR for its Vibrant Oceans programme, a philanthrophic intiative designed to ensure the survival of the ocean’s ecosystems.
She is also vocal on causes including sexual assault and FGM. When she left her Conservative role she did tell The Londoner that she “would still have my toe in the political waters”. That turned out to be prescient: it has been widely reported that she refers to herself as Flotus (the American acronym for the First Lady) among friends.
Arsenal boss wanted
With officials confirming the stockpiling of food and medicine in preparation for our departure from the EU, an ominous next step from the Ministry of Defence. It is in the process of recruiting a “Head of Warhead Stockpile Management” to look after Britain’s nuclear deterrent. “If successful, you will have access to the fifth-largest defence budget in the world,” goes the blurb. “As well as exceptional levels of responsibility, you can be certain of mentorship at the highest level, excellent career prospects and many opportunities to further develop your knowledge and skills.” Unless you have to use them...
In light of John Humphrys’ pending exit from Today, we perused his entry in The Television News Handbook: An Insider’s Guide to Being a Great Broadcast Journalist. He writes of a need for “an endless enthusiasm to challenge authority, find some answers and pass them on. Once you’ve lost that, it’s time to pack it in. Or so I keep telling myself.” It must have finally happened.
Dan Stevens has denied his involvement in the Downton Abbey film, telling Deadline that he doesn’t even know the storyline. He issued his denial after fans inundated him with questions, even though his character died in a car crash. He could have had a Bobby Ewing shower moment.
Whiter than white
The Queen Mother used to ask Dior dress models “to ignore protocol and turn their backs on her so she could inspect the haute couture”, according to Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A.
Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress is a star attraction of the museum’s Dior exhibition, but some may note that it “looks, ahem, somewhat yellowed”, he writes in The Spectator. “This is not down to the effects of any hard partying,” Hunt explains, but rather “Cecil Beaton’s shameless bleaching of the original 1951 portrait”.
Actor Daisy Lewis was at a screening of new short film Rain Stops Play in aid of Lady Garden last night. She got caught between two Foxes, actor brothers Jack Fox, left, and Laurence Fox, right. They are members of the acting dynasty that also includes Freddie and Emilia. Collective noun? A leash, apparently.
Georgia “Toff” Toffolo (below), one-time winner of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, seemed to be on a hunt for enlightenment at the Black & White Ball last night. First, we spotted her conversing politely with Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who backed Remain. Later, she was seen in discussion with Mark Francois MP, the Brexiteer who yesterday vented his fury at Donald Tusk’s latest comments.
Also at the ball, guests battled to win a host of lots as part of the annual raffle. Among the options were dinner with Environment Secretary Michael Gove and his wife Sarah Vine at their home, an exclusive “British Cheese Tasting” session with Chief Secretary for the Treasury Liz Truss (who has a “passion” for the smelly stuff) and a two-night stay in Edinburgh with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson — with the added bonus of going for a walk with her dog, Wilson.
BAFTA fever took hold in London last night as fashion label Dunhill hosted a dinner ahead of the ceremony on Sunday. Up-and-comers Ncuti Gatwa and Edward Bluemel were all smiles, while American actor Liv Tyler lent some Hollywood stardust.
Tyler — star of The Lord of the Rings and daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven — is something of an honorary Brit. She lives here with her husband Dave Gardner, a promoter and best friend of David Beckham, and stars in Harlots, a TV series about an 18th-century London brothel.
Also in attendance was Taron Egerton, the Kingsman actor who will soon be seen starring in the Elton John biopic Rocketman.
Reports last year had stated that he and his girlfriend, producer Emily Thomas, had broken up, but they were very much together last night.
Aside from the usual monotone dress code, bold colours were common. Actors Wallis Day and Hannah Arterton both drew the eye in bright trouser suits, while Les Misérables star Ellie Bamber wore a striking red gown.
Quote of the Day
'Perhaps he'll join us there'
Former Brexit secretary David Davis on Donald Tusk, who says there is a 'special place in hell' for those responsible for Brexit.