Commons Confidential: Cameron's comb-over and Ed Miliband's jacket

News from the political grapevine.

New Statesman
Image: Montage by Dan Murrell

Yvette Cooper delivers a nice line in self-deprecating humour, taking politics seriously but not herself. As a consequence, Labour’s shadow home secretary is much in demand as a speaker and she agreed to do the honours at a fundraiser in London for the perky grassroots website LabourList. Happy to make herself the butt of an anecdote, Cooper recounted how, sitting next to a royal protection officer at a monarchical event, she discovered the copper didn’t have a clue who she was. The invisibility, said Cooper, wasn’t a great verdict on her performance. She’s also happy to tell glorious tales at the expense of her insignificant other, Ed Balls. The protection officer, Cooper continued, enquired who else was present from the Labour Party. She pointed out the shadow chancellor. “Ah,” the relieved officer observed, “I wondered what Nick Griffin was doing here.” The physical resemblance must be uncomfortable for Balls, particularly as a snap exists of him as a young man in Nazi uniform during a dressing-up night at Oxford University.

Subsequent to this column disclosing that Ed Miliband has been instructed to keep his jacket on after a focus group found that female voters prefer him formally attired, I gather he’s also adopted a new handshake. MPs had likened physical exchanges of greetings with the Labour leader to grabbing a wet halibut. No longer. A visitor found the wannabe premier has developed a firmer handshake, squeezing tightly any proffered mitt to assert authority. One courtier handily posited this as evidence that Miliband goes from strength to strength.

Over in the Tory camp, the worry is Dave’s disappearing barnet. Despite an increasingly elaborate Cameron comb-over, the expanding white pate is visible from the press gallery. The PM’s cover-up is both strategic and vain. My snout whispered the bald fact is that the Lizard of Oz, Lynton Crosby, would find it trickier to portray a visibly ageing Cameron as the future.

The imminent sale and potential closure of that lefty canteen, the Gay Hussar in Soho, may happen before its manager, John Wrobel, busy cooking up a staff buyout, tracks down Michael Foot’s walking stick. Since this column reported that the gaffer yearned to hang on the wall the prop of its best-known patron, a cane purportedly used by Footie was presented by a diner but was rejected by Wrobel, who doubted its provenance. The stick would be useful should regulars mount the barricades to repel property speculators or – far worse – nouvelle cuisine.

Another Tory snout muttered that Boris Johnson has retained a large family home in the Henley constituency he vacated five years ago. I pass this on without further comment as the London Mayor seeks a Commons perch.

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