‘What they [the wealthy] really want to do when they have amassed colossal wealth in Britain, what they like to do, is buy the biggest possible house they can, with the most colossal grouse moor they can find and then try in some desperate way to perpetuate it’ – Boris Johnson, 2013.
On Monday morning, it was revealed that grouse shooting is to be made exempt from the ‘rule of six’ recently imposed by the government. Yes, yes, the Tories are extraordinarily corrupt. The real question now is: who placed the call to Boris on Friday afternoon?
Luckily, there are fewer than 150 people in Britain who own a grouse moor. Given that the Electoral Commission keeps a record of Tory party donors, a little cross-referencing goes a long way for the diligent hack. So, who forced the government to swift, immediate action? Who is our éminence grouse?
Jeremy Herrmann, 51
This publicity-shy hedge fund manager is the former captain of the English fly-fishing team, and if you forgive a rather easy metaphor, it seems he might well have Boris on his hook (sorry). In 2014, the Prime Minister was seen visiting his estate in Northumberland. Alas, the weather was so poor, Boris ‘had to settle for shooting clay pigeons’. Part of a power couple with wife Edwina, a lobbyist and former colleague of David Cameron.
Acreage: 26,000. Donation (via his wife): £25,000 to Boris’s 2008 mayoral campaign, and more than £140,000 to Tories. Odds 11/2.
David Ross, 55
Like most tycoons who haul themselves up by their bootstraps, this guy started small: as the heir to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the country. After quadrupling his money at Carphone Warehouse, this horny-handed son of the toil lives the life of Riley (Rossy?) across lavish homes throughout Europe. At the 2017 Black and White Ball, he offered a 200-bird day. Which means shooting 200 birds in a day. As the unofficial holiday-sponsor for the Prime Minister, here we have our dark horse.
Acreage: 12,000. Donation: £250,000 in the 2019 General Election and a trip to Mustique. Odds: 7/2.
Rocco Forte, 75
This gun-mad mogul has spent so much time on the moors that he’s permanently damaged his hearing (‘When I began shooting… no one wore ear protectors… they would have thought you a sissy,’ he told the Daily Mail).
According to the data, he currently leases a moor in Yorkshire. He also hosted Boris’ leadership victory party at his Mayfair hotel Browns (and covered the bill). Has given vast sums to the Tories but has no further plans to donate ‘at the moment as I can’t afford to’. Might this passionate Brexiteer have finally called in his debts?
Acreage: 2,500. Donation: £12,000 drinks bash, £100,000 for the General Election. Odds: 13/2.
Harry Dalmeny, 54
Very good chums with his old Eton mucker Boris: this cheerful little snap was taken chez Dalmeny. The old-fashioned toff owns the Leithenwater Estate in Scotland, but does a sideline as a Chairman at Sotheby’s, where he complained about the optics during an auction with the imperishable phrase, ‘Turn those horrible lights down. I feel like I’m in Auschwitz.’
Acreage: 3360. Donation: £0. Odds: 11/1.
Humphry Wakefield, 82
A particularly creepy baronet, Wakefield told an interviewer that his half-Friesian gelding is called Barack O’Bouncer, ‘because the horse is half-black and half-white’. There is genuine, not-from-a-nightmare footage of him sitting in a crypt, sipping red wine and warbling about genetics to a shocked, kind couple from Gateshead. The former art dealer bought Chillingham Castle in 1981, having lost his ancestral seat (‘I had tremendous withdrawal symptoms,’ he told the Daily Mail) and like all blue-bloods, he maintains his noble status by renting out his home to strangers.
But straight to the fundamentals: he would have lost all his estate income (ghost tours, weddings) during lockdown. And compared to the other big swinging dicks on this list, he’s a relative pauper. Through his snazzy website, he offers grouse and pheasant shooting (back on the menu from October). He will need that revenue stream back sharpish. And yes, his daughter is married to Dominic Cummings. Strong favourite.
Acreage: Unknown (maybe his son-in-law can help us with the data?) Donation: £0. Odds: 5/4.
Elizabeth Windsor, 94
Here’s something a lot of people don’t really know about the Monarch: she fucking loves shooting. Like some sort of mad fictional scientist, she has a secret farm of labradors which she breeds away from prying eyes on her Sandringham Estate. August and September are always for grouse shooting at Balmoral, where she is currently, as they say, in residence. However, she may have used up all her chips with the government: her favourite son, Prince Andrew, is wanted for interview by the FBI because of that dreadful business with the controversially dead Jeffrey Epstein. Straining that special relationship, Lizzie!
Acreage : 52,000. Donation: Service to her Loyal Subjects, tartan tea-towel as Christmas gift (lost on beaches of Mustique). Odds: 14/1.
Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets...