Commons Confidential: A confab of ginger rodents

David Miliband's breezy silence on the 50p tax rate, and some snoozing overheard in the Palace of Varieties library.

Craves the limelight, does Claire Perry. The Amazonian Tory isn’t exactly shy, so she didn’t hide her joy when, last October, Cameron granted her wish to join the front bench. Perry, a leading light in George Osborne’s gang, told everybody who would listen and a fair few who didn’t want to. One downside of becoming a junior whip, she informed her local rag, was that she’d be gagged and the country would hear less of her. Many voters will view it as a blessing. By convention, the duty whip sits near the Speaker, enabling him or her to confer with the chair. The problem, as Perry discovered, is that the position is out of camera shot. She’s taken to sliding along the bench to be on television, looking frightfully important. She’s determined to be seen if not heard.

The municipal panjandrum Mike Thornton, who succeeded racy Chris Huhne as the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh, has risen without trace. He’s joined the work and pensions select committee. The Register of Members’ Interests records a £473.75 monthly payment for his work as a borough councillor on top of an MP’s salary of £66,396. The irony of “Two Jobs” Thornton sitting on a body dealing with unemployment and the benefit cuts isn’t lost, I gather, on sniggering political opponents.

David Miliband, a member of Labour’s lost leaders’ club (president: Denis Healey), noticeably declined to endorse his younger brother Ed’s 50p tax plan on income topping £150,000 while on a visit to his abandoned South Shields seat. The silence jarred, as in a previous breath the elder Milibrother had pledged complete loyalty to his party’s sibling leader. Only a cynic would dare suggest he’d calculated that the policy would cost a £300,000-a-year head of an international charity an extra £7,500 in tax if that individual was paid in London not New York and at some point intends to return to Blighty.

To Aviemore and the Cairngorm Brewery, home of the Ginger Rodent. Your correspondent recalls the local MP, Danny Alexander, was tickled that an ale was brewed in his dishonour after Harriet Harman’s un-PC dig. Alexander, I discovered, bought ten cases of the brewery’s Ginger Rodent ale. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t ask for a discount. Either Alexander is a good constituency MP or his lack of financial nous explains why the ConDem coalition is failing to balance the books.

The deep leather armchairs in the Palace of Varieties are soporific. The end of the Commons library, where the likes of the veteran Labourite David Winnick and the Tory Edward Leigh retire to rest their eyes and contemplate significant issues, is overflowing. It is known as the rough sleepers’ end of the library.

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

Editor's Note: The original article stated that the Register of Members' Interests records a £47.75 monthly payment for Mike Thornton's work as a borough councillor. This was incorrect and has been amended. 

Montage: Dan Murrell.

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 05 February 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron the captive