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Rory Stewart considers becoming a children's author

Rory Stewart (PA)
Rory Stewart (PA)

Londoner's Diary

Politician-turned-podcaster Rory Stewart is considering writing a children’s book, he has revealed.

Stewart, who served as a Conservative MP and now presents the popular Rest Is Politics podcast with Alastair Campbell, has written a number of non-fiction works aimed at grown ups before but children's literature would be a new departure.

His most recent book, Politics On The Edge (published as How Not To Be A Politician in the USA), is a memoir of his near decade in government as successively a backbench MP and then a minister. It did well in the bestseller lists last year.

Stewart's other previous books include The Places In Between, about his journey on foot through Afghanistan, Occupational Hazards, an account of his time as a deputy governor of Iraq, and The Marches, a travel book.

He now seems to be seeking another challenge. But what wisdom might the former explorer impart to tots? Stewart has travelled the world and we reckon his kids’ books will be more like Kipling's Kim than Cat in the Hat.

Stewart’s podcast co-host Alastair Campbell is considering the same side hustle. So why are public figures so desperate to break the children’s literature market these days? From Meghan Markle and Geri Halliwell-Horner to Jamie Oliver and Sir Paul McCartney, they all seem to want a piece of the pie. One answer is: royalties.

Tories' wizard of Oz gives short-shrift to doomsayer's poll

For Isaac Levido, the Australian political guru at the heart of the Conservatives’ election campaign, the fight to stay in Downing Street is personal. At a meeting of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs last night, Levido pooh-poohed the Telegraph poll predicting a Tory wipeout.

He reportedly told MPs that those who paid for the poll, the largest conducted in five years, “seem to be intent on undermining this Government and our party”.

The poll was bankrolled by a mysterious group of Tory donors called the Conservative Britain Alliance, who probably hoped the negative results would push the Prime Minister in a more Right-wing direction.

Levido seems one of the few people left in Tory circles who believes the PM can pull off a win, and his reference to “our party” was no accident. While he began his career on the other side of the world, he was brought in to help the Tories in 2015, and in 2019 masterminded Boris Johnson’s election victory.

Rather than leaving Downing Street with Johnson in 2022, Levido has become more determined to keep the Tories in power. In September 2023 he stepped back from his successful advisory firm Fleetwood Strategies to set up a new politically focused consultancy called Sancrox, named after a town close to his childhood home in eastern Australia. In December, he moved into Conservative Campaign Headquarters so he can direct the election campaign at the beating heart of his beloved party.

Could Keegan be crowned?

Some have tipped straight-talking minister Gillian Keegan as a potential Conservative leader, and her expletive-laden rant about lazy civil servants and politicians last year only bolstered the Scouse education secretary’s down-to-earth credentials.

But her family back home aren’t so easily impressed. “I regret swearing on telly. My mum wasn’t very happy,” she told the Leading podcast this week. Keegan comes from a family of socialist stock, and she’s not keen to forget it. “I’m not actually tribal at all, I’ll work with anyone,” she said. “In my office today I have my great grandmother’s lifelong membership to the Labour party, signed personally to her thanking her for her service”. She also has her grandfather’s miner’s lamp on show.

Keegan’s name might not be the one on everybody’s lips when predicting future Tory leaders, but an outspoken education secretary from Grantham did it once before…

Betty's last act

Betty Boothroyd (PA)
Betty Boothroyd (PA)

The great Betty Boothroyd, the first and so far only female Speaker of the House of Commons, passed away last year at the age of 93. But she still had one surprise up her sleeve: a bonanza charity auction of her estate which will start next month. The catalogue tells of an eclectic life. Highlights include a black parliamentary despatch box, priced at £200 to £300, a programme for the presidential inauguration of John F Kennedy in 1961 and a diamond ring worth upwards of £70,000. Curiosities such as a collection of frog memorabilia also appear in the catalogue of more than 200 items. Boothroyd didn’t have children, and has instead left most of her positions to the auction house which will split the proceeds among six charities.