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Ale, lager and vegan wine

Eric “Rambo” Joyce the pub brawler was wrong to protest that Strangers’ Bar is full of Tories. The watering hole known as “the Kremlin” in the days it was a Labour boozer is now indeed used by Conservatives, too, particularly on warm spring evenings, when MPs take drinks on to the terrace. But the Blues add greatly to the jollity of the place. Take Alan “Dinky” Duncan, the multimillionaire oil trader-turned-dispenser
of alms to the world’s poor as international development minister. Dapper Dinky is one of life’s white wine’n’fizz drinkers. My snout queuing at the bar listened to Duncan ordering a pint of bitter and half a lager for guests. When the beverages were placed before him, Dinky was overheard inquiring: “Could you tell me which is which?” The clue is in the glass, Alan – a pint is twice the size of a half.

The County Durham lefty Grahame Morris was confused when three Labour MPs stopped to commiserate that he had just missed out on election as a shop steward on the party’s parliamentary committee. Morris hadn’t stood but then clocked, when the third member called him “Ian”, that comrades were mistaking him for the similarly bespectacled, round-faced Ian Mearns, a Gateshead lefty who did run and lost by a few votes. Morris is no stranger to confused ID. He often gets mail intended for Livingston’s Graeme Morrice and occasionally for Westminster’s Morrises David and James – though never, mercifully for both MPs concerned, Anne. Grahame Morris and Graeme Morrice both served on the Finance Bill. To enliven proceedings, they would answer to each other’s name when the roll was called.

The flakey coalition’s sausage roll-over on a hot snack tax reminded me that Gabby Bertin’s cut-glass accent doesn’t always help with the Herculean task of presenting Cameron as the people’s toff. Dave’s Girl Friday pronounced pasty, the snack slapped with 20 per cent VAT, as “paysty” – as in pale-faced – until corrected. Some say scone, others say high tea.

Pesky critters, these huntsmen. The Tally Ho! Brigade was caught videoing animal cruelty investigators at a Westminster reception for the League Against Cruel Sports. The prowlers were taunted by Labour’s Mary Creagh, who announced that she hoped they were enjoying the first and last vegan wine they are likely to be served.

The No 10 spinner Craig “Crazy Olive” Oliver’s “I’ve spoken to your boss” comedy rollocking of the BBC correspondent Norman Smith wasn’t his first outburst. He is gaining an unenviable reputation in Westminster for haranguing calls to hacks who write stories his masters disapprove of. Perhaps he can hear the laughter when they put the phone down.

Defibrillator for the rickshaw driver foolish enough to stop when Tommy “Two Dinners” Watson hailed one of London’s cycle taxis. The rear axle groaned, as did the driver, the knackered bloke last seen collapsing over the handlebars somewhere in Soho.

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 04 June 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The royal makeover