Commons Confidential: Frodo Baggins joins Ukip

Plus: Waiting for the union bus.

Gone a long way, Kingston and Surbiton’s Ed Davey – all the way to the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair. As the Energy and Climate Change Secretary he has acquired lots of wealthy associates, and so the Liberal Democrat’s constituency fundraiser on 6 June was held at a posh hotel in central London instead of a dreary local restaurant. My snout with the back of an envelope calculated 40 tables at £1,500 a pop must’ve raised £60,000 as heads of the power industry paid homage to the cabinet minister. Nick Clegg cracked a gag about Davey working in a pork pie factory and the porky minister scoffing them ever since, before an auction that included tea with Paddy Ashdown and a copy of the ConDem suicide pact signed by Clogg.

TUC bigwigs are wriggling to get off the General Strike hook after private advice from the lefty lawyer John Hendy, QC that “one out, all out” would be an unlawful action against the ConDem government. To protect union funds from sequestration under draconian laws banning political walkouts, the participating workers would each need to take a day off. “The General Holiday” isn’t a blood-curdling threat likely to vex Cameron.

A telling little right-wing moment outside a TV studio, involving Justine Greening and Nigel Farage. The International Development Secretary introduced herself to the Ukip leader instead of Farage greeting Greening – illustrating how, on the right of politics, it’s Ukip calling the shots over the Tories.

So, the Daily Express political hack Patrick O’Flynn will be standing for Ukip, as this column predicted, at next year’s Euro elections. The likeable if frighteningly Europhobic O’Flynn tortured a Fellowship of the Ring metaphor in his coming-out speech at a Ukip bash in Surrey. Tolkien is not an uncommon obsession on the right-wing fringes, but it appeared lost on Little Britain’s O’Frodo that the Fellowship was a coming together of peoples from diverse backgrounds in Middle-earth.

The servants’ quarters in the ancestral pile of Richard Drax MP – or, to give his full name, Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle- Erle-Drax – offer another insight into the world of Cameron’s toffs. Drax and his wife won an employment tribunal against a lesbian housekeeper. But the number of gossiping Tory MPs who were freely naming Drax in Westminster bars before then, while reporting restrictions were still keeping his name secret from voters, exposed the class war in a party split between the strivers and the inheritors.

Trade union anti-austerity buses will start touring Britain from 17 June to mobilise opposition to spending cuts and lower living standards. Unite is running two buses, with one each scheduled by the TUCs in London, Wales and Scotland. You wait ages for a union bus and then five come along all at once.

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

Montage: Dan Murrell/NS

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.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.