Salmond and the Sun. Montage: Dan Murrell/NS
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Commons Confidential: The Sun sets on Salmond

Plus: Why is Keith Vaz all starry-eyed?

The talk in Scotland’s Yes and No camps is of the Sun setting on Alex Salmond. The word inside News UK is that Rupert Murdoch would love the paper’s Glasgow edition to back independence but in London the Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore, calculates that destroying the UK would be commercially disastrous for his Union Jack-waving tabloid. The snout predicted that Dinsmore, a Tory and product of Strathallan, a pricey Perthshire school, will hold the line in September.

The Scottish Sun backed the SNP’s 2011 Holyrood landslide and the starry-eyed Murdoch once tweeted: “Alex Salmond clearly most brilliant politician in the UK.” Perhaps Murdoch would see Scotland divorcing the rest of Britain as revenge on David Cameron for all the arrests, Leveson and Rebekah Brooks’s trial. Wappingologists will note the loosening of the Sun King’s grip on his second-favourite red top.

Also starry-eyed is Keith Vaz. I hear he is hopeful of securing a part in a Bollywood take on the Bond franchise if it is shot in Westminster. The name’s Vaz, Keith Vaz. The poor man’s Daniel Craig is a busy man. He took time out from holding to account alleged dodgy coppers and pervert politicians to complain to the administration committee that strawberries and cream aren’t served on the terrace.

Ed Miliband is anxious to rebuild bridges with Dennis Skinner after a whipping operation backfired and the Beast of Bolsover was inadvertently voted off Labour’s governing National Executive Committee.

The intended target was the Scouse brickie Steve Rotheram, who had criticised Mili over that Sun photo, but it all went bacon sandwich and Skinner became collateral damage. Mili’s insistence that there was no whipping operation is undermined by the figures. The turnout in the NEC election was unprecedented, with 250 of 257 Labour MPs voting. A few hours later 22 fewer Labour MPs voted against George Osborne’s Budget on the Finance Bill’s third reading.

The source on this is well placed: a prominent MP was called by his local newspaper and asked what he thought about a beauty spot’s growing reputation as a “dogging hot spot”. “Marvellous,” he told the hack. “I’m delighted so many people are enjoying the area.” The reporter spared the MP’s blushes and, sadly, allowed him to change his quote after the unworldly fiftysomething politician was informed the practice involved group sex and voyeurism, rather than people walking their pets.

I’m informed that Nick Clegg believes the ex-Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, who confessed to “degrading” a vulnerable constituent with mental health issues, deserves to be stripped of a CBE, awarded after he chaired the NSPCC’s southern region.

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 08 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the red-top era?

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Andy Burnham quits shadow cabinet: "Let's end divisive talk of deselections"

The shadow home secretary reflected on a "profoundly sad" year. 

Andy Burnham will leave the shadow cabinet in the reshuffle to focus on his bid to become Manchester's metro mayor in 2017. 

In his swansong as shadow home secretary, Burnham said serving Labour had been a privilege but certain moments over the last 12 months had made him "profoundly sad".

He said:

"This is my tenth Conference speaking to you as a Cabinet or shadow cabinet minister.

"And it will be my last.

"It is time for me to turn my full focus to Greater Manchester. 

"That's why I can tell you all first today that I have asked Jeremy to plan a new shadow cabinet without me, although I will of course stay until it is in place."

Burnham devoted a large part of his speech to reflecting on the Hillsborough campaign, in which he played a major part, and the more recent campaign to find out the truth of the clash between police and miners at Orgreave in 1984.

He defended his record in the party, saying he had not inconsistent, but loyal to each Labour leader in turn. 

Burnham ran in the 2015 Labour leadership election as a soft left candidate, but found himself outflanked by Jeremy Corbyn on the left. 

He was one of the few shadow cabinet ministers not to resign in the wake of Brexit.

Burnham spoke of his sadness over the turbulent last year: He was, he said:

"Sad to hear the achievements of our Labour Government, in which I was proud to serve, being dismissed as if they were nothing.

"Sad that old friendships have been strained; 

"Sad that some seem to prefer fighting each other than the Tories."

He called for Labour to unite and end "divisive talk about deselections" while respecting the democratic will of members.

On the controversial debate of Brexit, and controls on immigration, he criticised Theresa May for her uncompromising stance, and he described Britain during the refugee crisis as appearing to be "wrapped up in its own selfish little world".

But he added that voters do not want the status quo:

"Labour voters in constituencies like mine are not narrow-minded, nor xenophobic, as some would say. 

"They are warm and giving. Their parents and grandparents welcomed thousands of Ukrainians and Poles to Leigh after the Second World War.

"And today they continue to welcome refugees from all over the world. They have no problem with people coming here to work.

"But they do have a problem with people taking them for granted and with unlimited, unfunded, unskilled migration which damages their own living standards. 

"And they have an even bigger problem with an out-of-touch elite who don't seem to care about it."

Burnham has summed up Labour's immigration dilemma with more nuance and sensitivity than many of his colleagues. But perhaps it is easier to do so when you're leaving your job.