Anne McIntosh montage by Dan Murrell
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Commons confidential: Anne McIntosh’s big gamble

The dumped Tory MP for Thirsk is hosting a party in September in London’s Hippodrome Casino.

Scotland is already a separate country in the eyes of Qataris. On a trip to the natural-gas-powered Gulf monarchy to report on the exploitation of migrant workers mainly from developing countries such as India and Nepal, I spied a workforce listed at a construction site in the capital, Doha. Next to 80 workers named as being from the UK were three from Scotland.

Should the 2022 World Cup kick off in the conservative state, I’d advise female footie fans to pack a wedding certificate. In the Building and Wood Workers’ International delegation was Ellie Reeves. The Labour NEC member was stopped by a police officer as she strolled along the Corniche in the group. The copper demanded to know if she was married to any of the men present: three officials from the Ucatt construction union and the Labour MPs Stephen Hepburn and Chris Williamson. The union’s chief politico, Jim Kennedy, stepped forward to play the role of the gallant Sir Walter Raleigh by pretending that Reeves was his wife for the duration of the walk. Reeves, married to the MP John Cryer, is a feminist but recognised that argument is futile in a dictatorship if you want to catch a flight home later in the day. 

Keeps nasty company, David Cameron. It was brought to my attention that the PM rubbed shoulders with a Nazi apologist during a Brussels gathering of his party’s far-right allies. With the chief Con at the meeting of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group was the MEP Roberts Zile of Latvia’s For Fatherland and Freedom party, an organisation that every year honours Nazi SS veterans. I bet Cameron kept quiet about the association on his recent flying visit to Israel.

A Liberal Democrat leaflet popped through your correspondent’s letter box. It positioned Clegg’s Yellow Peril as the champion of “ordinary working people”. With Cameron’s Conservatives posing as representatives of “hard-working people”, is there a gap in the market for Miliband’s Labour? I’ve long felt “reluctantly working people” are ignored politically.

Is Anne McIntosh under starter’s orders to save her Thirsk seat? The dumped MP, deselected by a North Yorkshire hunting set rallying behind another Old Etonian chap, is hosting a party in September. The “save the date” invitation misdirected my way reveals that the venue is the Hippodrome Casino in London. The choice is peculiar for someone the Public Whip website judges is “against permissiveness” on gambling after a study of her voting record. Intriguing.

I hear there was a kerfuffle at the TUC women’s conference. The Ucatt political officer Kate Purcell was unceremoniously bundled out of the room after holding up a large, home-made message requesting that the chair, Prospect’s Sue Ferns, persuade her lecturer other half not to do a Tristram Hunt by crossing university picket lines. Nothing sisterly in the strong-arm reaction to the doughty Ms Purcell’s protest.

 

Editor's note: This column mistakenly referred to Jeremy Hunt crossing picket lines, this has been corrected to Tristram Hunt. (7th April 2014).

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 10 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Tech Issue

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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.