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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I can’t follow Marie Kondo's advice – even an empty Wotsits packet “sparks joy” in me

I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I have been brooding lately on the Japanese tidying freak Marie Kondo. (I forgot her name so I typed “Japanese tidying freak” into Google, and it was a great help.) The “Japanese” bit is excusable in this context, and explains a bit, as I gather Japan is more on the case with the whole “being tidy” thing than Britain, but still.

Apart from telling us that we need to take an enormous amount of care, to the point where we perform origami when we fold our underpants, which is pretty much where she lost me, she advises us to throw away anything that does not, when you hold it, “spark joy”. Perhaps I have too much joy in my life. I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

After a while I gave up on this because I was getting a bit too happy with all the memories, so then I thought to myself, about her: “This is someone who isn’t getting laid enough,” and then I decided that was a crude and ungallant thought, and besides, who am I to wag the finger? At least if she invites someone to her bedroom no one is going to run screaming from it, as they would if I invited anyone to my boudoir. (Etym: from the French “bouder”, to sulk. How very apt in my case.) Marie Kondo – should bizarre circumstance ever conspire to bring her to the threshold – would run screaming from the Hovel before she’d even alighted the stairs from the front door.

I contemplate my bedroom. As I write, the cleaning lady is in it. To say that I have to spend half an hour cleaning out empty Wotsits packets, and indeed wotnot, before I let her in there should give you some idea of how shameful it has got. And even then I have to pay her to do so.

A girlfriend who used to be referred to often in these pages, though I think the term should be a rather less flippant one than “girlfriend”, managed to get round my natural messiness problem by inventing a game called “keep or chuck”.

She even made up a theme song for it, to the tune from the old Spiderman TV show. She would show me some object, which was not really rubbish, but usually a book (it may not surprise you to learn that it is the piles of books that cause most of the clutter here), and say, “Keep or chuck?” in the manner of a high-speed game show host. At one point I vacillated and so she then pointed at herself and said, “Keep or chuck?” I got the message.

These days the chances of a woman getting into the bedroom are remote. For one thing, you can’t just walk down the street and whistle for one much as one would hail a cab, although my daughter is often baffled by my ability to attract females, and suspects I have some kind of “mind ray”. Well, if I ever did it’s on the blink now, and not only that – right now, I’m not even particularly bothered that it’s on the blink. Because, for another thing, I would frankly not care to inflict myself upon anyone else at the moment.

It was all a bit of a giggle eight years ago, when I was wheeled out of the family home and left to my own devices. Of course, when I say “a bit of a giggle”, I mean “terrifying and miserable”, but I had rather fewer miles on the clock than I do now, and a man can, I think, get away with a little bit more scampish behaviour, and entertain a few more illusions about the future and his own plausibility as a character, when he is squarely in his mid-forties than when he is approaching, at speed, his middle fifties.

Death has rather a lot to do with it, I suppose. I had not actually seen, or touched, a dead body until I saw, and touched, my own father’s a few weeks ago. That’s what turns an abstract into a concrete reality. You finally put that to one side and gird up your loins – and then bloody David Bowie snuffs it, and you find yourself watching the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” over and over again, and reach the inescapable conclusion that death is not only incredibly unpleasant, it is also remorseless and very much nearer than you think.

And would you, dear reader, want to be involved with anyone who kept thinking along those lines? I mean, even if he learned how to fold his undercrackers into an upright cylinder, like a napkin at a fancy restaurant, before putting them in his drawer? When he doesn’t even have a drawer?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war