Henry's henchman: Montage by Dan Murrell
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Commons confidential: Dave’s Cromwell moment at Wolf Hall

While Sam Cam comandeers the disabled loo.

David Cameron isn’t a chap to let a global crisis such as the one in Ukraine get in the way of an evening at the theatre. My eagle-eyed snouts and radar-lugged informants were out in the audience when the Bullingdon boy tipped up with his wife, Samantha, in Stratford-upon-Avon to watch Wolf Hall. Electorally the least successful Tory premier in history, he may be seeking inspiration from Henry VIII’s henchman Thomas Cromwell. And with whom did the Downing Street couple dine in the rooftop restaurant? The City PR Sir Alan Parker, a chum Dave knighted a few months ago, and Parker’s missus, Jane Hardman, a political lobbyist. 

The foursome rubbed along famously. Dave’s bodyguards requested a coat stand be shifted so they could keep an eye on their employer from a discreet distance. The revelry was interrupted by a flunkey appearing at the table with a phone for the PM to take an important call. I trust Sir Alan, part of Dave’s recent posse to China, instantly forgot everything he overheard.

Tittering rippled around the auditorium as Cameron and party were ushered into front-row seats moments before the curtain went up at the Swan Theatre. Sir Alan’s brother Nathaniel “Inspector Lynley” Parker was a fine Henry but the star of the show was Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell. Dave, a snout whispered disapprovingly, was distracted by texts and emails on his own mobile. The PM placed the device on a programme so it appeared as if he was reading the play notes or profiles of the actors. Smart move. Luckily, the phone was on silent. 

Cameron’s security team needed to push its way through the crowded bar to deliver their charge to a private room for interval drinkies. One woman almost spilled a cup of water over him in the melee. Others muttered: “Is it really him?” Yes, it was. A disabled woman tried to gain entry to the room but was turned away, told it was a private party. The queue for the ladies’ was long. Sam Cam and Jane Hardman disappeared into the one disabled loo.

In the second half, the magnificent Miles intentionally aimed Cromwell’s line that “Government should always listen to the voice of the people” at Dave in the front row. It brought the house down. The usually disciplined RSC audience erupted, cheering and applauding. Theatregoers, otherwise known as voters, pointed and laughed at Cameron. The PM just smiled, as did Nathaniel Parker’s Henry VIII.

In the interests of fairness, I feel compelled to record that a fair number in the audience later wanted to shake the PM’s hand. Incidentally, it looks as if Dave’s back on the hair dye.

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 05 March 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's power game

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.