Sunshine brings on to the Commons terrace MPs who are rarely seen with a drink in their hand. My snouts saw the Tory backbencher formerly known as the culture secretary Maria Miller queuing in Strangers’ Bar for two glasses of white wine and a pint of lager. Before that ghastly business of her expenses, the Basingstoke MP would have had a special adviser to fetch and carry her beverages. Needs must and all that, so there was Miller, patiently waiting her turn with hoi polloi from politics. If she had glanced over her shoulder, she might have spilled her drinks. Immediately behind the skewered ex-minister was the Bassetlaw Bruiser, John Mann, Miller’s smiling assassin. Revenge
is a drink best drunk cold.
Members of Labour’s northern working-class contingent grumbled into their beers during a rare sighting of Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt on the terrace. A blabber recounted how hackles were raised by the party posh boys strolling past the proles to sit at a table at the far end, near Big Ben. The northerners speculated (groundlessly, I’m sure) that Umunna and Hunt were plotting against Ted Miliband, despite the Obama adviser David Axelrod’s £300,000 city break in London. MPs arguing that the exclusion was social, not political, claimed victory when the Tory banker Kwasi Kwarteng, one of Cameron’s brigade of Old Etonians, pulled up a chair to join the posh boys.
Observed striding through Portcullis House with a My Little Pony spring in her step was Claire Perry. It took this column’s squealer a few moments to compute what gave the not-so-humble whip the Katie Price air of attention-seeking. Swinging ostentatiously at Perry’s side was a ministerial red box, the ultimate political Viagra. Except whips aren’t presented with red boxes. The job requires charm and thumbscrews, not a leather document case. Was Perry carrying the bag for another minister? If so, she was so close yet still so far from a coveted box of her own.
The union bods Tony Burke and Allan Black deserve a footnote in the AstraZeneca-Pfizer battle. My man at the business committee giggled when the brothers plopped themselves down immediately behind the US drug company’s financial alchemist, Ian Read, after giving their evidence against the proposed snatch to the committee. The seats are ordinarily reserved for advisers. The union occupation prevented Pfizer’s team from passing notes to Read, who was up next. As sit-down protests go, it worked comfortably.
Labour MPs voting for Rory Stewart as chair of the defence committee because he’s an Old Etonian may have gifted victory to a Tory cattily called “Florence of Arabia” behind his back.
Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror