ANDREW PIERCE: Why Rishi looks squiffy over booze…

ANDREW PIERCE: Why Rishi looks squiffy over booze… as a lifelong teetotaller the PM understands little about the joys of good wine

As a lifelong teetotaller, Rishi Sunak understands little about the joys of good wine.

Perhaps that explains why the Prime Minister boasts that he has ‘radically simplified’ alcohol duty — or, to put it another way, hiked the cost of drink.

As of this month, alcohol duty more closely reflects the strength of the booze, partly to nudge people onto weaker stuff.

A typical bottle of wine is now about 50p more expensive; gin and vodka still more so.

So how surprising that Tory Party chairman Greg Hands appears to be encouraging rank-and-file Conservative members to drink more wine, not less. 

In ‘radically simplifying’ alcohol duty, Sunak has raised the price of wine. Pictured at the Great British Beer Festival, 1 August 2023

As an inducement to retain their subscriptions, the 180,000 bibulous souls of the Tory faithful are receiving a £50 voucher with Richard Branson’s Virgin Wines.

Good business, of course, for the tycoon who mostly lives in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands — even if, as a Treasury minister, Hands was previously sniffy about those enjoying such financial arrangements.

Tories in the Commons are puzzled by the move. 

‘We want to make wine more expensive for voters on health grounds,’ said one exasperated Home Counties MP, ‘but we are bribing people like me to drink more. I don’t get it.’

What an exciting life Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant has led. 

While his new book, Code Of Conduct, contained the revelation that no fewer than five MPs have groped his bottom, Bryant further disclosed some years ago how he was once chased around a grand piano by a ‘randy’ bishop. (No news on whether the libidinous cleric caught him.) 

Bryant disclosed some years ago how he was once chased around a piano by a ‘randy’ bishop

The lechery goes on. When interviewed to read English at Oxford, Bryant was asked to sit on the loo and read an essay on the poet Shelley to a don who was soaking himself in the bath.

‘He asked whether I liked women,’ Bryant revealed. ‘I said I was very fond of my mother, which I charmingly thought would prove that I wasn’t gay, but now realise merely confirmed the fact.’

Stanley Johnson looked entirely at ease when he was filmed for GB News in the garden of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Somerset mansion, discussing the state of the Tory Party since his first-born, Boris, was ousted from Downing Street. 

But how times change! In October, after Liz Truss’s resignation as PM, Johnson Sr was asked if he would be backing Rishi Sunak for the leadership.

‘He’s got my vote if he gets rid of Rees-Mogg from the Cabinet,’ came the firm reply.

Some actors do well in politics. Ronald Reagan made the switch from Hollywood to the Oval Office, while Tony Blair — an even bigger ham — became PM. 

But can Alex Clarkson (stage name Bradley Clarkson) rise all the way to the top? Stevenage Conservatives have picked the stage and TV actor, 41, as their new parliamentary candidate to defend an 8,000 majority. 

He’s had leading roles in musicals such as Dreamboats & Petticoats, is a theatrical agent and has been a regular at his local Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage. Break a leg on this latest stage, Alex! 

Bradley Clarkson, actor and voice over artist, is pictured in a 2023 PR shot

Tory MP Duncan Baker may be a former sub-postmaster, but he seems to be having trouble grasping how the service actually works — and has irked his North Norfolk constituents after a mail-out led to some of them receiving the same letter up to 12 times.

Baker’s office has declined to say how many of the letters, posted second-class, went out, or to reveal the cost of the blunder, but a ‘full apology’ has been made to those whose doormats have been overwhelmed.

It’s not the first time he has struggled with mail to constituents. Last year, the MP had to repay almost £5,000 for misusing House of Commons stationery (it can be used only for specific purposes) after sending more than 6,800 newsletters.

Could it all be a cunning plan to keep his postie former colleagues in gainful employment?

Duncan Baker is the Conservative MP for North Norfolk, and has been an MP continuously since 12 December 2019

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