Choc tactics: a Cadbury’s employee protests outside parliament ahead of its takeover by Kraft in 2010. (Photo: Getty)
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Commons Confidential: parliament’s soaring chocolate bill

While former cake-hater David Amess MP beggars belief.

The late Bob Crow was as combustible at football matches as he was in pay negotiations. A few years ago, a match at Dagenham was halted while stewards warned the RMT leader that he would be ejected if he continued to abuse the then Morecambe FC boss, Sammy McIlroy. Crow, who was sitting behind the dugouts, described his rants as “lively banter”. McIlroy called him “a total arsehole”. As so often, Crow had the last laugh. He left with the match ball. RIP.

Trouble at t’mill. The TUC’s plans to merge its northern region with Yorkshire and the Humber are going down as badly as any pay cut. The head sister, Frances O’Grady, has her work cut out amid talk of protests, subs’ strikes and even disaffiliation. My informant muttered that the Yorkshire TUC secretary, Bill Adams, had been warned that he would be out of the door if he didn’t move to the West Midlands, the joint job earmarked for the northern TUC’s Beth Farhat.

Keir Starmer’s quest for a Labour seat looks as if it starts and ends in Holborn and St Pancras. The onetime DPP will be guest speaker alongside the retiring MP, Frank Dobson, at a £25-a-head fundraiser, hosted by Labour’s Bloomsbury and King’s Cross branch. Sir Keir never uses his title. It doesn’t go down well with the comrades, apparently.

Rent-a-quote David Amess isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. The Southend West MP fell for a Brass Eye spoof about a drug called “cake”, appearing on the show in the T-shirt of a fictional anti-drugs body, FUKD & BOMBD. Now I hear he wants to know how many beggars appeal against convictions. They don’t have the money, Dave.

I spotted Nick Clegg travelling second class on the train from London to the Yellow Peril’s spring jamboree in York. His cash-strapped party bought the ticket. If it’s considered safe to travel with hoi polloi as Lib Dem leader, why do taxpayers pay for the Deputy PM to go in first class? I hope he isn’t taking us for a ride.

Clegg the self-declared patriot will have enjoyed the Lib Dem conference more than Simon Hughes. The (in)justice minister had a face like thunder when he wasn’t called during a debate, despite repeatedly waving his arms at the chair. The worry might have been that the Bermondsey Bore would stupefy an audience barely conscious at the best of times. Hughes could drone for Britain and frequently does.

Factlet of the week: the Commons authorities spent £39,920 on chocolate last year to stock shops, cafés and restaurants. The £164 cost of answering the parliamentary written question tabled by the Lib Dem John Thurso to find this out could have bought 234 more Mars bars. 

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 12 March 2014 issue of the New Statesman, 4 years of austerity

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Leader: The angry middle

As a sense of victimhood extends even to the middle classes, it makes Western democracies much more difficult to govern.

Two months after the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, it remains conventional wisdom that the referendum result was largely a revolt by the so-called left behind. Yet this is not the full picture. Many of the 52 per cent who voted Leave were relatively prosperous and well educated, yet still angry and determined to deliver a shock to the political system. We should ask ourselves why the English middle class, for so long presumed to be placid and risk-averse, was prepared to gamble on Brexit.

Populism has long appealed to those excluded from political systems, or from a share in prosperity. In recent years, however, its appeal has broadened to young graduates and those on above-average incomes who also feel that they have not benefited from globalisation. The sense of middle-class victimhood has become a major strand in Western politics.

In the United States, middle-class anger has powered support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The former drew his activist base mostly from young liberals. And while Mr Trump’s success in the Republican primaries was often attributed to a working-class insurrection against “the elites”, exit poll data showed that the median yearly income of a Trump voter was $72,000, compared with a national average of $56,000. (For supporters of Hillary Clinton, the figure was roughly $61,000.) It is not the have-nots who have powered Mr Trump’s rise, but the have-a-bits.

In the UK, similar forces can be seen in the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, research shows that three-quarters of Labour Party members are from the top social grades, known as ABC1. About 57 per cent have a degree.

Mr Sanders, Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn have very different policies, ideologies and strategies, but they are united by an ability to tap into middle-class dissatisfaction with the present order. Some of that anger flows from politicians’ failure to convey the ways in which society has improved in recent years, or to speak truthfully to electorates. In the UK and much of the West, there have been huge gains – life expectancy has risen, absolute poverty has decreased, teenage pregnancy has fallen to a record low, crime rates have fallen, and huge strides have been made in curbing gender, sexual and racial discrimination. Yet we hear too little of these successes.

Perhaps that is why so many who are doing comparatively well seem the most keen to upset the status quo. For instance, pensioners voted strongly to leave the EU and are the demographic from which Ukip attracts most support. Yet the over-65s are enjoying an era of unprecedented growth in their real incomes. Since 2010, the basic state pension has risen by over four times the increase in average earnings. 

Among young people, much of their anger is directed towards tuition fees and the iniquities of the housing market. Yet, by definition, tuition fees are paid only by those who go into higher education – and these people receive a “graduate bonus” for the rest of their lives. Half of school-leavers do not attend university and, in a globalised world, it is their wages that are most likely to be undercut by immigration.

However, we should not be complacent about the concerns of the “angry middle”. The resentment exploited by Donald Trump is the result of 40 years of stagnant median wages in the United States. In Japan and Germany, median wages have not increased in the past two decades. In the UK, meanwhile, the median income for those aged 31-59 is no greater than it was in 2007, and those aged 22-30 are 7 per cent worse off, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

To compound the problem, the wealthy keep getting wealthier. In 1980, American CEOs were paid 42 times the wage of the average worker. They are now paid 400 times as much. In the UK, the share of household income going to the top 1 per cent has more than doubled since 1979. Because of our hyperconnected, globalised media culture, we see more of the super-rich, fuelling feelings of resentment.

As a sense of victimhood extends even to the middle classes, it makes Western democracies much more difficult to govern, with voters oscillating between populists of the left and the right. The political centre is hollowing out. Rather than pander to the populists, we must do more to quell the politics of victimhood by addressing the root of this corrosive sense of grievance: entrenched inequality. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser