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Commons Confidential: BoJo’s Latin lesson

Plus Ed’s “come back, all is forgiven” message to the trade unions for them to help the No campaign in Scotland. 

Ed Miliband is performing a reverse ferret in his Battle for Britain, with 40 Labour MPs in Scotland at stake. He has never forgiven trade unions the favour they did him in persuading members to vote for him for Labour leader, distancing himself from organised labour and marginalising it within the party. So imagine the incredulity when Desperate Ed rang Len McCluskey, Dave Prentis and other union general secretaries to beg for help to defeat Alex Salmond’s separatists. Unite in Scotland remembers Miliband’s office reporting a couple of innocent activists to the cops in the overblown Falkirk parliamentary selection row. Unite is neutral, as is Unison. Word in the two big unions is they might be in the Yes campaign if their Scottish regions called the shots. Ed should have realised he’d need the unions before he stabbed them in the back.

My advice to the Tory candidate for Easington, Chris Hampsheir, is don’t bray on trains. Passengers on a London-to-Glasgow service endured his boasts until he got off at Carlisle. If he’s reading this, I was sitting in front of you. So enjoy your £125-a-head “champagne and unlimited wine” Michael Howard fundraiser, though I doubt it’ll go down well in a deprived corner of County Durham. And next time you’re asked whether canvassing involves drinking cups of tea, don’t answer: “Pints of beer. This is the north. I have to drink them under the table.” Such a tired old stereotype.

Latin-quoting Tory and Old Etonian Buller Boris Johnson has met his match in Labour’s Coventry comp girl Mary Creagh. The party’s shadow transport secretary intended to put her school Latin to good use by urging caveat viator, let the traveller beware, when Boris Island sank under a tsunami of scorn in Howard Davies’s airports report. Alas, a spinner in Labour’s propaganda unit vetoed Creagh’s Latin lark, ruling that plain English was required. It would have been a refreshing change to the double Dutch spouted by many politicians.

Back to Hampsheir, the human foghorn in seat E36. I calculate his estimate of a 3 per cent Tory fall nationally in 2015 would result in a No 10 exit for Dave. Hampsheir doesn’t expect to overturn the Labour MP Grahame Morris’s 14,982 majority. Finishing second is his goal. “The locals want somebody young and energetic,” he declared, “to stir things up before they slumber for the next five years.” Charming.

What would Bob Crow have made of this? To save money on a hotel, the RMT hired a couple of flats for the TUC in Liverpool. The apartment block was called “Posh Pads”.

Finally, hapless Hampsheir’s verdict on the north-east: “They don’t like – properly ‘hate’ – Conservatives.” Especially in Easington. 

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 10 September 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Britain in meltdown

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Stella Creasy targeted for deselection

Organisers on the left believe the Walthamstow MP is the ideal target for political, personal and geographical reasons.

Stella Creasy, the high-profile MP for Walthamstow and defeated deputy Labour leadership candidate, is the first serious target of an attempt to deselect a sitting Labour MP, the New Statesman has learnt.

Creasy, who is on the right of the party, is believed to be particularly vulnerable to an attempt to replace her with an MP closer to the Labour party’s left. Her constituency, and the surrounding borough of Waltham Forest, as well as the neighbouring borough of Leyton and Wanstead, has a large number both of new members, inspired either to join or return to Labour by Jeremy Corbyn, plus a strong existing network of leftwing groupings and minor parties.

An anti-bombing demonstration outside of Creasy’s constituency offices in Walthamstow – the MP is one of around 80 members of Parliament who have yet to decide how to vote on today’s motion on airstrikes in Syria – is the latest in a series of clashes between supporters of Creasy and a series of organized leftwing campaigns.

Allies of Creasy were perturbed when Momentum, the grassroots body that represents the continuation of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, held a rally in her constituency the night of the Autumn Statement, without inviting the MP. They point out that Momentum is supposedly an outward-facing campaign supporting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party towards the 2020 general election and the forthcoming local and European elections. Labour holds 27 out of 27 council seats in Creasy’s constituency, while Creasy herself has a majority of 23,195 votes.

“If you look at the seat, there is nothing to win here,” said one Labour member, who believes that Momentum and other groups are planning to depose Creasy. Momentum has denied any plot to remove Creasy as the MP.

However, Creasy has come under pressure from within her local party in recent weeks over the coming vote on bombing Syria. Asim Mahmood, a Labour councilor in Creasy’s constituency, has called for any MP who votes for bombing to face a trigger ballot and reselection. Creasy hit back at Mahmood on Facebook, saying that while she remained uncertain of how to vote: “the one thing I will not do is be bullied by a sitting Walthamstow Labour councilor with the threat of deselection if I don’t do what he wants”.

Local members believe that Mahmood may be acting as the stalking horse for his sister, the current mayor of Waltham Forest, Saima Mahmud, who may be a candidate in the event of a trigger ballot against Creasy. Another possible candidate in a selection battle is Steven Saxby, a local vicar. Unite, the recognized trade union of the Anglican Communion, is a power player in internal Labour politics.

Although Creasy has kept her own counsel about the direction of the party under Corbyn, she is believed to be more vulnerable to deselection than some of the leader’s vocal critics, as her personal style has led to her being isolated in her constituency party. Creasy is believed to be no longer on speaking terms with Chris Robbins, the leader of the council, also from the right of the party.

Others fear that the moves are an attempt by Creasy’s local opponents to prepare the ground for a challenge to Creasy should the seat be redrawn following boundary changes. The mood in the local party is increasingly febrile.  The chair of the parliamentary Labour party, John Cryer, whose Leyton and Wanstead seat is next to Creasy’s constituency, is said to fear that a fundraiser featuring the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, will take an acrimonious turn. Cryer was one of just four shadow cabinet ministers to speak against airstrikes in Syria.

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