Show Hide image

Commons Confidential: Balls’s hottest dish in town

Plus: George Osborne owes Tom Watson a pint.

In the fallout from the latest lobbying scandal, MPs are scrambling for defensive positions. James Arbuthnot, the armchair general, informed MPs under his command on the defence select committee of the need to avoid potential conflicts of interest. My snout muttered how Arbuthnot declared he would sell any shareholdings in military contractors and was likely to step down as chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel. MPs need register only individual holdings above the £66,396 parliamentary salary or a company stake of more than 15 per cent; a quick check found no sizeable holding recorded by Arbuthnot. The Tory, an officer in Citizen Dave’s Brigade of Old Etonians, raised grumbles in Labour ranks by advising opposition MPs also to sell defence shares. The Labour men – unlike the Tory officer – live on their pay and are shareless.

“Sir” George Osborne the baronet’s son owes the hitman Tommy-Gun Watson the price of a pint after the Chancer of the Exchequer did a runner from Strangers’ Bar. The trust-fund Tory promised to buy Watson a beer if he smiled for the cameras when Ossie tipped up to pull the first draught of a constituency brew. Osborne duly posed as a barman, the Labour man grinned and cameras flashed. Then the Chancer vanished. Watson was overheard muttering: “There’s one like him in every golf club.” Osborne would do well to make amends. Those who cross Tommy-Gun rarely prosper. Ask Rupert Murdoch.

Word emerges from the energy and climate change committee of how the Lib Dem MP Robert Smith twice ignored pleas to replace Tim Yeo temporarily in the hot seat, accepting only at the third time of asking. Yeo is busy protesting his innocence over cash-for-no-answers after appearing to boast that he’d advised a witness how to bamboozle the committee. Smith protested that his own shareholdings would expose him to unfriendly fire. Events prove him right. I note that besides his significant interests in Shell and Rio Tinto, the Aberdeenshire MP accepted a couple of free tickets to the Olympic wrestling courtesy of BP. Nobody was that interested when he was an obscure MP.

Lasagne made by Ed “Beefy” Balls, Labour’s answer to Delia Smith, are the new hot dish on the circuit since Ed Miliband instructed prominent frontbenchers to raise £35,000 each. Yvette Cooper auctioned two of her hubby’s dishes for £8,500 at a Fabulous Feminist Fundraiser. Balls is inundated with orders in the shadow kitchen. Good preparation for digesting Osborne’s half-baked figures.

A touch of Downton Abbey in Westminster, where the Serjeant-at-Arms is permitted to smoke on the terrace overlooking the Thames but uniformed badge messengers who run the place are treated as below-stairs and banned. Unhappy MPs vow to stub out the class discrimination.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

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 24 June 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Mr Scotland