The story appeared—for a nano-second—in the print edition of The Times of London: Boris Johnson (it claimed), when he was foreign secretary in 2018, had tried to hire Carrie Symonds—now Carrie Johnson, his wife—as his chief of staff. And then it was gone, dropped from later print editions, apparently never making it online. For those who caught it as it whizzed by, the article “expanded on claims in a biography of Carrie Johnson by the Tory donor and peer Lord Ashcroft that Johnson had tried to appoint her to a $122,000-a-year government job,” reported The Guardian, and that the plan fell apart “when his closest advisers learned of the idea.… Johnson was then still married to Marina Wheeler, a barrister.” One reason the potential hiring might have alarmed Johnson’s advisers, presumably, is suggested in the instantly evaporated Times article: “Staff learned of the affair”—between Johnson and Symonds—“after an MP allegedly walked in on the pair in a ‘compromising situation’ in Johnson’s Commons office in 2018.”

While The Times hasn’t commented, The Guardian reported that the article “was dropped for later editions after [an] intervention from No 10,” and that “Downing Street confirmed it contacted the newspaper on Friday night and asked it to retract the story.” As to the original article’s accuracy, “a source with knowledge of the situation told the Guardian this account was correct.” On the other hand: “A spokesperson for Carrie Johnson was categoric. ‘These claims are totally untrue,’ she said. Downing Street declined to give an on-the-record response to the story but a No 10 source also said the story was untrue — and suggested it was sexist.” The reporter, Simon Walters, told The Guardian, “I stand by the story. I went to all the relevant people over two days. Nobody offered me an on-the-record denial and Downing St didn’t deny it off the record either.”

Nothing to see here … Move along …

Buckingham Palace is reportedly “improving policies and procedures” in its H.R. department, but the results of the Queen-funded, independently conducted investigation that led to the changes—an inquiry instigated by bullying claims leveled at the Duchess of Sussex in 2021—will not see the light of day. “It is understood they will be kept under wraps to protect the privacy of those who took part and to limit tensions between the Sussexes and the palace,” said The Times of London. However, “some participants are deeply disappointed the report is being ‘buried’.”

Meghan had denied the accusations. “Her lawyers described the claims as a ‘calculated smear campaign’ before the Sussexes’ interview with Oprah Winfrey the same month,” the newspaper said. “After the allegations emerged, including claims that young members of staff were ‘broken’ and reduced to tears by Meghan’s behaviour, a royal source said: ‘The actual worst incidences haven’t come out. There are some harrowing stories to tell.’” No comment from Buckingham Palace.

For a good return on your investments, better clutch those high-end purses tight, according to a study of collectibles by Credit Suisse. “Chanel handbags, traditional Chinese works of art and wristwatches offer the best inflation protection, while fine wines, modern and contemporary art, and American and Latin American art tend to suffer in high-inflation regimes,” The Times of London said, quoting from the bank’s report. Chanel bags, said the newspaper, “rise in value by 7 per cent in normal times, it said, and by 17 per cent in high-inflation years. Rolex watches have also done well, up by 6 per cent in normal years and by 8 per cent in high-inflation years. Fine wines typically fall by as much as 11 per cent in high-inflation years … American art, Old Masters and classic cars have also done relatively badly in inflationary times.”

The man, the myth …

Peter the Great. Ivan the Great. Vlad the Casting About for a Resolution to His “Military Operation” That Will Anoint Him, Too, as Great.

Catchy. Maybe not quite there yet, but he’s workshopping it. With insufficient troops and autumn coming, Putin needs something in order to claim victory and save face, and his advisers and generals are reportedly feverishly pitching scenarios that will do the trick, even cosmetically. “One idea gaining traction is to hoover up a number of ragtag former Soviet territories that already depend on Moscow’s authority for their existence, and then hail Putin as a ‘gatherer of the Russian lands’ in the old Tsarist tradition,” wrote his biographer Mark Galeotti in The Times of London.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced in Paris Match and the Express that Russia’s Federal Protective Service deploys a team to gather and bag Putin’s feces when he travels, place it under armed guard, and transport it to Russia in a special suitcase. According to the story, the Putin-scoopers swung into action during the Russian president’s trips to France and Saudi Arabia in 2017 and 2019. “It is suggested to be an effort to reduce the risk of foreign powers discovering information about Putin’s health that could be contained in the DNA,” said the Express. Really, it’s just another kind of annexation, isn’t it? Returning to Russia what is rightfully hers?

How much money would you need to, well, not make you “happy,” per se, but give you an “absolutely ideal life”? Depending on where you’re from, $10 million or so ought to do it. “Academics at the universities of Bath, Bath Spa and Exeter found that contrary to the assumption that everyone wants to be as rich as possible, most people say they would be happy with a few million,” reported The Guardian. The study “found that in 86% of countries the majority of people thought they could achieve their ideal life with $10m or less.” Except Americans, who say “they need at least $100m, and frequently insist on $100bn.” Either way, that’s a lot of Chanel handbags. —George Kalogerakis

George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL