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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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.