I wasn’t at the UK Press Awards last night but apparently Boris Johnson pulled off a brilliant speech that included some comments undermining Cameron’s “Broken Britain” theme.
The mayor said of Stephen Byers, who notoriously compared himself as a cab for hire: “He must have found a devilish route to Heathrow.”
To what extent was Stephen Byers exaggerating or even fantasising when he claimed that he was able to influence the process by which National Express exited a loss-making East coast rail franchise?
That is certainly the current view of Byers himself, who – perhaps after realising he had been the victim of a journalistic sting – retracted his claims. Hilariously, he has “regretted that my misleading comments might be taken seriously”.
Originally Byers, a former transport secretary (the picture is old but I love the moustache) told the fake lobbyist that he had enabled National Express to negotiate favourable terms in jettisoning the franchise without penalties.
The problem with his self-promoting claim is that the contract ended last year with the loss of £72m to the transport company, in the form of a £32m performance bond and a £40m loan which it walked away from. Read more
I’m sure at one level Gordon Brown must be furious about today’s story in the Sunday Times, which doesn’t exactly look great for Labour. (The Tories, by contrast, weren’t taken in by the fake lobbying company).
Then again, look at who has been caught out by the sting: Stephen Byers, who has machinated for years to remove Brown from power; and – to a lesser extent – Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, who tried to start a new coup earlier this year. Read more