Two board members at charity fronted by Carrie Johnson 'to resign'

EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Two board members at Aspinall wildlife charity fronted by Carrie Johnson ‘plan to resign as trustees’ after inquiry into its ‘financial management’ is completed

When casino and wildlife park owner Damian Aspinall brought in the Prime Minister’s wife as his PR chief, he doubtless looked forward to lots of positive publicity.

Carrie Johnson’s appointment has, however, turned the spotlight on the inner workings of the socialite’s charity. And now, I hear, two of its most prominent board members are to step down.

‘King of clubs’ Robin Birley and his half-brother, financier Ben Goldsmith, are understood to be planning to resign as trustees of the Aspinall Foundation once an internal investigation into the charity is completed.

Caroline Russell, the lawyer leading the probe, is said to have pointed out that Birley has been a trustee for almost ten years when it’s considered best practice to hold such roles for six or seven. Goldsmith has been in post for eight.

Wildlife park owner Damian Aspinall (pictured) brought in the Carrie Johnson as his PR chief, but her appointment has turned the spotlight on the inner workings of the socialite’s charity

‘Robin agreed to be a trustee as a favour for his friend Damian but does not want to be tainted by any suggestion of scandal,’ one of his friends tells me. 

‘He has greatly enjoyed being a trustee and believes Aspinall does some great work.’

Birley has pictures of the creatures from Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent all over his Mayfair private members’ club, 5 Hertford Street, even though he was mauled by a tiger there as a child, leaving him permanently scarred.

Carrie was appointed as the foundation’s head of communications in January to promote its work on protecting endangered species. 

However, the next month this newspaper revealed that her employer was being investigated by the Charity Commission over what the regulator called its ‘financial management and wider governance’.

A Mail investigation raised concerns that the foundation was funnelling cash to members of the Aspinall family and allowing Damian to live in a stately home it owns for a below-market rent. 

The foundation’s trustees then commissioned a second inquiry, by Ms Russell, to establish whether its affairs were legal.

This week, the charity was involved in more controversy after Carrie wrote an article boasting about its plans to spend £1 million flying 13 elephants from Kent to the plains of Africa. 

Robin Birley and his half-brother, financier Ben Goldsmith (pictured), are understood to be planning to resign as trustees of the Aspinall Foundation after an internal investigation

Carrie (pictured with Boris) was appointed as the foundation’s head of communications in January to promote its work on protecting endangered species

The plans sparked an international row, with Kenya’s ministry of wildlife saying it had not been consulted. 

Conservationist Adam Hart, who presents science programmes on BBC Radio 4, rubbished the project as ‘ego conservation’.

Damian is the son of gambling legend John Aspinall, a pal of the late Lord Lucan, and he’ll be upset to lose two loyal trustees. 

Luckily, his daughter Tansy, 31, became a trustee in 2019. Perhaps ambitious Carrie could join her on the board? 

A spokesman for Birley tells me: ‘Robin is waiting for the recommendations of the report, and will act accordingly.’ He says it wouldn’t be true to say he had stepped down already. Goldsmith says he has no plans to resign ‘for the time being’.

HERE COME THE BRIDES! FERGIE BAGS A SEAT AT GODDAUGHTER ELI’S BIG DAY

Lord Ivar Mountbatten became the first member of the Royal Family to marry someone of the same sex in 2018. 

And now the goddaughter of Sarah, Duchess of York, has proposed to a woman.

‘She said yes,’ declares music producer Eliza Dodd-Noble, 33, who popped the question to American food blogger Hannah Crockett, 29.

The goddaughter of Sarah, Duchess of York, Eliza Dodd-Noble (left), 33, has proposed to a woman – American food blogger Hannah Crockett, 29

Eliza — whose father Paddy Dodd-Noble is an old friend of Sarah and her ex-husband, Prince Andrew — proposed at the fabled Chateau Marmont Hollywood hotel this week

Eliza — whose aristocratic father, Paddy Dodd-Noble, is an old friend of Sarah and her ex-husband, Prince Andrew — proposed at the fabled Chateau Marmont Hollywood hotel this week. 

A close pal of Fergie’s daughters, Eliza forms half of the DJ duo Eli & Fur. 

She and her sister, artist Daisy, attended Princess Eugenie’s wacky Disney-themed 25th birthday at Royal Lodge in Windsor, where Eugenie hired seven dwarfs to follow her around.

‘I am so proud of Eliza getting engaged to Hannah,’ the Duchess tells me. 

‘Nothing gives my heart greater joy than to see young people happy. My Eliza is a special and very talented lady and I wish them all the luck in the world.’

No doubt, married life will keep Eliza’s appetites satisfied: Hannah is a passionate foodie and runs a recipe blog, The Simple Seagan

Fergie adds: ‘I have already bagged a seat at the wedding!’

No doubt, married life will keep Eliza’s appetites satisfied: Hannah is a passionate foodie and runs a recipe blog, The Simple Seagan, which she describes as ‘recipes for the vegan who sometimes eats seafood’.

Eliza’s aunt, Fiona Dodd-Noble, says, delightedly: ‘We are thrilled.’

Rock star Damon Albarn admits his failures are not easily forgotten by his 21-year-old daughter, Missy. 

‘I did A-level music and I failed that,’ the Blur singer confesses. 

‘I made the terrible mistake of telling my daughter, and she’s just never let that one go. She used it against me in her own education.

‘Tip to parents: don’t brag about things that you don’t want your kids to emulate, because they will.’

Boris Johnson has delighted football fans by allowing 60,000 of them to watch the Euros final at Wembley tomorrow, but Burberry model and Royal Ascot presenter Rosie Tapner is kicking off about another big match. 

Burberry model and Royal Ascot presenter Rosie Tapner (right) is enraged by Covid rules for weddings as her sister Anna’s big day, postponed four times amid the pandemic, will suffer

She’s enraged by Covid rules for weddings as her elder sister Anna’s big day — postponed four times due to the pandemic — will suffer.

‘Wembley can be packed full of strangers all screaming, chanting, drinking, hugging, but at a wedding, you are still restricted in the church, must be seated in bubbles, must have masks on and are not allowed to sing?’ fumes Rosie, whose sister, ties the knot next Saturday, two days before so-called Freedom Day.  

There’s something whiffy about Channel Five’s new angling reality show, Fishing Scotland’s Lochs And Rivers.

Fern Britton, who takes part, admits she can’t stand fish. 

‘I’m possibly something of an imposter on this trip,’ she admits. 

‘I fished once when I was about five in Cornwall. I reeled in a couple of mackerel and a pollock.

‘My grandmother said, ‘I’ll cook it for you’. I tasted it and it was the most revolting thing I have ever eaten.

‘I think that’s what put me off fish.’ 

My disclosure yesterday that actress Juliet Stevenson is to marry Hugh Brody after 28 years together, has led Mariella Frostrup to a radical conclusion. 

‘I’d raise the legal age of marriage to 50,’ declares the broadcaster, 58. 

‘Weddings have for far too long been the preserve of those who are young and in lust, without the slightest idea of what a life of cohabitation entails.’ 

Frostrup — who’s been married twice, to punk rocker Richard Jobson, then to lawyer Jason McCue — adds: ‘A wedding ought to be a reward, and a celebration of a relationship’s ability to survive.’

THE SMART SET’S TALKING ABOUT… WEST EX POLLY’S NEW DOMINIC

The Affair star Dominic West’s ex-girlfriend Polly Astor has found love again… with Dominic. 

Not the married Old Etonian, with whom she has a child, but Coronation Street actor Dominic Geraghty.

‘They’ve known each other for years,’ a friend tells me. ‘It was platonic at first, but romance has since blossomed. He’s moved into her house in West London. She was especially grateful for his company in lockdown.’ 

The Affair star Dominic West’s ex-girlfriend Polly Astor (both pictured with daughter Martha, now 23) has found love again… with another Dominic

Not the married Old Etonian, with whom she has a child, but Coronation Street actor Dominic Geraghty (pictured)

Polly, 49, is the granddaughter of Britain’s first woman MP, Nancy Astor, and has a daughter, Martha, now 23, with West. West and Martha were in the BBC’s adaptation of The Pursuit Of Love, in which Geraghty, 52, also had a small role. 

Perhaps more significant was the part he played in West’s personal life: he was the one who introduced him to his wife, Catherine FitzGerald. 

Tamara Ralph co-founded Mayfair fashion house Ralph & Russo, which created the transparent £56,000 dress that Meghan Markle wore for her engagement photos.

However, she’s recently been beset with financial woes involving her business, which became insolvent earlier this year. Now, financial salvation could be at hand. 

For, I can disclose that her super-rich boyfriend Bhanu Choudhrie is free to get married again.

He’s been granted a decree absolute in his divorce from Simrin Choudhrie, an interior designer who starred in Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire. 

Bhanu will, however, be substantially poorer, as Simrin has walked away with a staggering £60 million payout.

She was represented in court by Fiona Shackleton, known as the ‘Steel Magnolia’.

Tamara gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Haliya, with businessman Bhanu in January. 

WHY LILY UPPED STICKS FOR SUN

She’s one of Britain’s most successful models, but doll-faced Lily Cole is no longer one of its residents.

I can reveal the 33-year-old from London has packed her bags to set up home in sunny Portugal.

‘We weren’t planning to move here – it was a decision made last year in the midst of the pandemic,’ explains Cambridge graduate Lily. She has a five-year-old daughter, Wylde, with businessman Kwame Ferreira.

Lily Cole (pictured in June 2017), 33, has packed her bags to set up home in sunny Portugal. She has a five-year-old daughter, Wylde, with businessman Kwame Ferreira

‘Last summer I packed my car with essentials and spent several weeks driving through Europe.

‘Since arriving in Portugal, I miss the magic that comes with adventures, but I’ve also been focusing on the positives of stillness — digging into the landscape, watching the details of the season change.’

(VERY) MODERN MANNERS

It’s the trendy private members’ club where Meghan Markle posed for selfies, but the atmosphere at Soho Farmhouse is turning ugly because of rows about people using their phones.

I can disclose that the Cotswolds venue has applied for permission to extend its lounge area to provide a space where ‘anti-social’ members can natter away, at a distance from other patrons. 

It prohibits use of electronic devices in communal areas and asks members to keep phones on silent.

New plans submitted to West Oxfordshire District Council explain that it needs to build an area ‘for use by guests and members where they can use their mobile phones and laptops away from the existing dining/lounge spaces’.

It adds: ‘Soho House have identified that activity on electronic devices in the same lounge and dining space as used by members and hotel guests relaxing and socialising can change the atmosphere and on occasion prove to be anti-social.’

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