Commons Confidential: The Boss is back in town

Keith Vaz, I gather, didn’t buy Victor Spirescu so much as a cup of coffee. Make that Welcome to Austerity Britain.

Ed Miliband was reminded during a campaign trip in north London that politicians can’t choose the voters. Denouncing the evils of austerity and loan sharks on Kilburn High Road, the Labour leader happily posed for a selfie when a young lady skipped up and produced her phone. He agreed to visit the shopworker’s emporium until she led him to a pawnbroker. A little further along the road, according to my witness, another woman asked for a snap. Miliband duly smiled as she took their picture on her phone. “And where do you work?” enquired a pleased Ed. “Over there,” replied the female elector, “in that payday loans shop.” A wannabe prime minister collects votes wherever he finds them.

I hear Victor Spirescu, the Romanian car-washer detained by Keith Vaz for a photocall at Luton Airport, wishes he’d caught a later flight to avoid the publicity-obsessed Labour MP. Vaz, self-appointed chair of his own Welcome to Britain committee, lapped up the attention as he shook the migrant worker’s hand and then sat with him in a café as photographers clicked away. Vaz, I gather, didn’t buy Spirescu so much as a cup of coffee. Make that Welcome to Austerity Britain.

David Cameron is becoming ever so grand, whispers a snout. The time when No 10 officials called him a chummy Dave have faded into history. These days lackeys refer to the PM as “The Boss”. The hired hands noticed Don’t Call Me Dave didn’t join a football match at Camp Bastion during an end-of-year flying visit to Afghanistan. Cameron never misses an opportunity to pick up a cricket bat or tennis racquet. He’s played badminton and ping-pong. But I’m told Don’t Call Me Dave feared an over-the-top tackle from a disgruntled squaddie. Pay freezes, pension cuts and P45s aren’t popular with people shot at for a lower standard of living or redundancy.

John Bercow greeted Unite’s “Red Len” McCluskey effusively at a Show Racism the Red Card shindig in Speaker’s House. Brother Bercow and Comrade McCluskey got along famously. Both have trouble with their party leaders: Cameron’s no fan of Bercow, while Miliband reported McCluskey’s union to the police over Falkirk. Perhaps of more long-term significance is the courting of McCluskey by Alex Salmond. The chief Nat asked the Unite leader which workers’ rights he’d like included in an independent Scotland’s Bill of Rights. Red Len’s lucky to get a cup of tea from Red Ed.

Buried in the honours list was an MBE for the Labour staffer Eric Wilson. The gong was for political service. Wilson is the party apparatchik who handled Falkirk. Miliband owes him more than a medal.

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

Labour MP Keith Vaz. Photo: Getty.

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 08 January 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The God Gap