Commons Confidential: Ed’s unaccompanied miner

PLUS: A curious incident in Strangers’ Bar.

Ed keeps digging. Montage: Valeria Escalona
MPs who embrace trade unions as part of the Labour family were put on the naughty step during the TUC conference. I hear Ian Lavery, a former miner and chair of the trade union group of Labour MPs, was refused permission to travel to Bournemouth by the whips’ office.
Lavery, by all accounts, was unhappy. Not least because he lost the money he’d spent on a booked hotel room.
My snout shouted how Lavery asked if it was a joke, then acquired a thunderous look as black as the bottom of a pit shaft when informed that he must remain in London. When in a hole, stop digging, Ed!
A curious incident in Strangers’ Bar at the House of Commons. That Lib Dem bomber Paddy Ashdown ordered a pint of lager. Bewitched by his smartphone, Captain Paddy reached into a trouser pocket and slapped down a pile of coins, inviting the barman to extract the price of the pint.
Rude – or acceptable behaviour by a seemingly busy peer of the realm? I invite the court of public opinion to be judge and jury.
Kelvin MacKenzie apologises for his Wapping short temper in the Elmbridge Lifestyle Magazine. The interviewer, Rosanna Greenstreet, reveals that in 1989 she toiled as a News International secretary. At the job interview, she was asked: “What would you do if MacKenzie called you a c***?”
It’s easy to see how an unrestrained and ranting reactionary printed lies about dead Liverpool fans. It isn’t the terrible Hillsborough calumny, however, that leaves MacKenzie most rueful. “My greatest regret,” he reveals, “is that I didn’t stop editing sooner. I worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week . . .” He’s still all me-me-me.
New pink ribbons were cut and tied to hang swords in a reorganisation of the members’ cloakroom, coat pegs now arranged by constituency rather than surname. The idea was to avoid the need to move everyone along if a Zeus was replaced by an Aardvark in a by-election. Missing from the fresh ribbons are the plastic and wooden swords slipped in by irreverent MPs. Parliament likes to stand on its dignity.
The thespian Ian Grieve plays the brooding eponymous leader in The Confessions of Gordon Brown, which will have a short run in Brighton during Labour conference.
One unexpected problem is audience members shouting out names when Grieve-Broon poses a rhetorical question about who was defence secretary during the Iraq war. The answer is Geoff Hoon, but this isn’t panto, so shush if you go.
Piers Morgan grumbles how he was twice mistaken for David Cameron. Something about the cheekbones. Has Cameron ever been mistaken for the CNN host? Crushing for both if he hasn’t.
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 16 September 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Syria: The deadly stalemate

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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.