Michael Gove by Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: Red Mike runs from his past

Meanwhile the Beeb is under fire for alleged pro-Farage bias in election reporting.  

Wailing is audible in No 10 after Vince Cable limped home from China, the Business Secretary having suffered severe collateral damage in his friend Matthew Oakeshott’s suicide bombing. My Downing Street snout whispered that the Conservative machine was banking on Cable replacing David Cameron’s playmate Nick Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Cable is disliked by Cameron and hated by George Osborne, the Tory pair complaining that the Labour-leaning Vince isn’t a coalition team player. Yet both willed him to get the top job. The Cons calculated that Cable – a former member of the Labour Party, adviser to John Smith and contributor to the 1975 Red Paper on Scotland, edited by Gordon Brown – is the Lib Dem best placed to win back Yellow Peril votes from Labour. The No 10 plot to revive the Lib Dems as a Ukip of the left was another victim of Oakeshott’s secret polling.

 

The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, has, I hear, lost his sense of humour over complaints (1,200 and counting) that Auntie’s coverage of the council and European election results was biased in favour of Nigel Farage. The leader of the Purple Shirts did appear to chalk up the Beeb as a Ukip gain and it was a curious local authority “earthquake” when the party’s share of the vote fell 6 points on the previous May to 17 per cent.

Robbo is an old pro and bridles at accusations that he isn’t objective, especially when lefties resurrect his national chairmanship of the Young Conservatives in Thatcher’s heyday. He took umbrage at a Martin Rowson cartoon in the Guardian of him calling the Ukrainian elections for Ukip despite Farage winning no votes. Rowson was disappointed that the BBC man’s email wasn’t a request to buy the original. 

 

Michael Gove is citing a prior engagement to avoid revisiting the scene of his unruly “Red Mike” union militancy. The Tory Education Secretary is unlikely, I was informed, to attend the 25th-anniversary strike reunion of journalists on Aberdeen’s Press and Journal in October. During the dispute, Red Mike was, as this column has disclosed, bundled into the back of a police van after throwing a traffic cone from a viaduct on to Union Street, the Granite City’s main thoroughfare. Oh, the irony that, in his current incarnation, he lectures teachers on how to behave in classrooms.

 

A visitor to the Victoria Street lair of the business minister Michael Fallon was surprised to see a poster of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. Fallon is a Thatcherite and the film charted Maggie’s struggle with dementia and the powerlessness of physical frailty. My snout wondered if Fallon had actually seen the film.

 

Congratulations to Joe Dromey, son of Jack and Harriet Harman. Elected a Labour councillor in Lewisham, Dromey Jr went straight into the cabinet. Which is more than his MP dad did.

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 04 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, 100 days to save Great Britain

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

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