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

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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