Show Hide image

Commons Confidential: potshots at the Lords

“I am recruiting for this year’s Lords v Commons full-bore rifle competition,” the 12th Baron Lucas emailed peers…

Arnie Graf, the man Ed Miliband asked to rebuild Labour, was kept waiting for an hour for a scheduled meeting before party election mastermind Spencer Livermore deigned to see him. Rudeness is a political weapon and a snout, cringing at the discourtesy, contrasted Old Ed with New Ed. Old Ed hired Graf, a mentor to Barack Obama when the future US president was a community organiser in Chicago, to revive the grass roots. New Ed’s latest best friend from America is David Axelrod, as Miliband’s team grabs power at the centre. Graf has been around the block a few times but he is, I’m assured, frustrated by the paranoia and politicking at the top of the Labour Party.


“I am recruiting for this year’s Lords v Commons full-bore rifle competition,” the 12th Baron Lucas emailed peers. “If you, or anyone you know who is connected with the Lords, a total novice or an experienced shot, would like to participate, please put them in touch with me.” There’s nothing like an Old Etonian hereditary to remind us that the House of Lords hasn’t changed that much.


David Cameron’s increasingly dictatorial style is irking Tory backbenchers. One MP recounted how the whips had vowed to make his life a misery and blame the poor chap personally if the party loses next year’s election. “We believe in one man, one vote democracy in the Conservative Party,” he grumbled, “and David Cameron is the man with that vote.”


The arts minister Ed “Hazy” Vaizey listed the pictures in the British embassy in Tehran when it was ransacked by rioters in 2011. Among the portraits of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V was a picture of the deposed shah of Iran. Talk about a red rag to an Iranian mob.


Belated word reaches me of a London fundraiser for frontbencher Lisa Nandy’s Wigan constituency. Miliband’s policy guru Jon Cruddas was the guest speaker. Surveying the crowd drawn from the party’s left and right, he joked: “Here we are, in a room full of Progress people and Compass people. What others don’t understand is we are united by one thing: we all hate the Brownites.” Shadow cabinet meetings would be enlivened if the roguish Cruddas were placed between Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.


Stop press: Ed Miliband might have avoided his Sun scorching if he had been better informed, reading newspapers instead of posing with a promo copy. For a man who claims to eschew public
prints, he has earned quite a reputation for griping to editors about journalists penning disobliging articles. I can’t help but wonder if the complaints are undermined by his not reading the papers he complains about.

Kevin Maguire is 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 18 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Islam tears itself apart

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.