Let them eat cake: Jeremy Hunt by Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: the Unhealthy Secretary’s slice of the cake

Meanwhile Nigel Evans returns to Westminster. 

Bumping into Jeremy Hunt, I noticed that the Unhealthy Secretary wears an NHS enamel lapel badge. It adds to the boyish minister’s air of a harassed hospital junior manager. He’s clean-cut, too. The Tory MP bragged to his local newspaper in Surrey that he’s no philanderer. Hunt, whose wife is expecting their third child, issued the information during a lunch to celebrate an office move by the rag. According to the paper: “When invited to cut the cake, decorated with an edible print of the Haslemere Herald front page, Mr Hunt said he was pleased not to see a stop-press ‘local MP embroiled in sex scandal’ story and promised there never would be one.” He’s shafting the NHS instead.

How often does Ed Miliband go up to his Doncaster constituency? An informant muttered that it may not be very often, if the Labour leader’s standard question to people from Tykeland is any guide. Miliband is prone to inquire: “How are things in Yorkshire?” It could just be an ice-breaker but the informant felt that Mili has a hazy grasp of what occurs in the white rose counties.

Nick Clegg never strikes me as particularly familiar with Sheffield, the steel city. Yet we know straight from the retired police horse’s mouth that David Cameron has ridden every inch of Witney with the Chipping Norton set. In the PM’s case, familiarity may, depending on events at the Old Bailey, prove a weakness.

The pressure is getting to scribbler-turned-spinner Patrick O’Flynn. Hired by Ukip as Nigel Farage’s chief propagandist and destined to be an MEP, O’Flynn was a genial if reactionary hack for many years on the Daily Express. Lobby correspondents grumbled, after he inadvertently sent a sweary text about a Times journalist to the writer, that O’Flynn refuses to return calls, takes offence easily and hangs up when he doesn’t like the line of questioning. It didn’t take long for him to develop the politicians’ disease known as thin skin.

As Nigel “Not Guilty” Evans returned to Westminster at a party thrown by the Tory David Davis, a snout recounted details of a colourful exchange during Evans’s trial on rape and sexual assault charges which suggest he should expect no favours when John Bercow is in the big chair. The judge, summing up a contretemps in a Commons bar, said Lembit Öpik had been referred to as “a c***”. The prosecuting counsel intervened to remind him Öpik had actually been called “a f***ing dickhead” and that the C-word had been applied to Bercow. Such language is sure to catch the Speaker’s attention, if not his eye when Evans hopes to be called.

Things you never thought you’d hear. MP on his phone: “Give me 20 minutes. I’m at a fundraiser for a food bank and the buffet is fabulous.” 

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 01 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The Islam issue

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The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org