Watch: Godfrey Bloom mocks disabled student, asks "are you Richard III?" during debate

The former UKIP MEP resorts to ableism during a debate at the Oxford Union.

Last week (23 January) the Oxford Union hosted a debate - motion: "This House Believes postwar Britain has seen too much immigration" - between Lord Singh, Nadhim Zahawi MP and author Monica Ali on one side, and Douglas Murray and former UKIP (now independent) MEP Godfrey Bloom on the other. 

David Browne, a student, took the the microphone to make a statement opposed to the motion, but before he could begin he was interrupted by Bloom making a point of order to ask "are you Richard III or not" (a clear reference to Browne's disability). Browne, unfazed, replied with a quote from Margaret Thatcher: "I am always quite flattered when people insist on personal attacks on their opponents because it just demonstrates they have run out of arguments."

(It's also worth pointing out how many people laughed at Bloom's "joke", because from the way the incident's been reported elsewhere it might seem like he wasn't playing to an audience happy to lap up that kind of ableist crap.)

The incident so appalled Douglas Murray that he blogged afterwards to call it "a gruesome moment – ghastly, disgraceful and deeply telling of Mr Bloom". Somehow, considering this is a man whose response to being asked about his party's lack of members from ethnic minorities is to hit the journalist who asked the question, it seems unlikely Bloom will feel much remorse. 

I'm a mole, innit.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

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 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era