Maria Miller by Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: Maria Miller’s genuine draught

The Tory backbencher formerly known as the culture secretary had to queue at the bar like everyone else. Meanwhile Chuka and Tristram dodged the proles. 

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

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 21 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Peak Ukip

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The public like radical policies, but they aren't so keen on radical politicians

Around the world, support for genuinely revolutionary ideas is strong, but in the UK at least, there's less enthusiasm for the people promising them.

You’re probably a getting a little bored of the litany of talking head statistics: trust in elected officials, parliament, the justice system and even democracy itself has been falling steadily for years and is at record lows. Maybe you’ve seen that graph that shows how people born after 1980 are significantly less likely than those born in 1960 to think that living in a democracy is ‘essential’. You’ve possibly heard of the ‘Pasokification’ of the centre-left, so-named the collapse of the once dominant Greek social democratic party Pasok, a technique being aggressively pursued by other centre-left parties in Europe to great effect.    

And so, goes the logic, there is a great appetite for something different, something new. It’s true! The space into which Trump et al barged leaves plenty of room for others: Beppe Grillo in Italy, Spanish Podemos, Bernie Sanders, Jean Luc Melanchon, and many more to come.

In my new book Radicals I followed movements and ideas that in many cases make someone like Jeremy Corbyn seem positively pedestrian: people who want to dismantle the nation state entirely, use technology to live forever, go off grid. All these ideas are finding fertile ground with the frustrated, disillusioned, and idealistic. The challenges of coming down the line – forces of climate change, technological change, fiscal crunch, mass movements of people – will demand new types of political ideas. Radical, outsider thinking is back, and this does, in theory at least, offer a chink of light for Corbyn’s Labour.

Polling last week found pretty surprising levels of support for many of his ideas. A big tax on high earners, nationalising the railways, banning zero hours contracts and upping the minimum wage are all popular. Support for renewable energy is at an all-time high. According to a recent YouGov poll, Brits actually prefer socialism to capitalism, a sentiment most strongly held among younger people.

There are others ideas too, which Corbyn is probably less likely to go for. Stopping benefits entirely for people who refuse to accept an offer of employment is hugely popular, and in one recent poll over half of respondents would be happy with a total ban on all immigration for the next two years. Around half the public now consistently want marijuana legalised, a number that will surely swell as US states with licenced pot vendors start showing off their dazzling tax returns.

The BNP effect used to refer to the problem the far-right had with selling their ideas. Some of their policies were extremely popular with the public, until associated with the BNP. It seems as though the same problem is now afflicting the Labour brand. It’s not the radical ideas – there is now a genuine appetite for those who think differently – that’s the problem, it’s the person who’s tasked with delivering them, and not enough people think Corbyn can or should. The ideal politician for the UK today is quite possibly someone who is bold enough to have genuinely radical proposals and ideas, and yet appears extremely moderate, sensible and centrist in character and temperament. Perhaps some blend of Blair and Corbyn. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But this is politics, 2017. Anything is possible.

Jamie Bartlett is the head of the Violence and Extremism Programme and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos.

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