Disco. Photo: Getty
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What is the Lib Dem Disco?

The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the party's conference this autumn. But what is it?

The Lib Dems, much to the excitement and cheerful derision of Westminster insiders, have announced that they are holding disco at their annual party conference. “The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the Lib Dem Conference 2014” (their italics), is how the website describes it.

There was a bit of worry in the New Statesman office that “disco” was short for “discussion”, and that the event would be little more than men in yellow polyester ties talking about Trident and land value taxation, looking sad. But it looks like it’s actually a party, with lights and dancing and everything. Maybe even dry ice.

The Evening Standard describes it thus: “. . . the Liberal Democrats’ biggest movers and shakers are preparing to throw some of their best shapes at a party fundraising event next month”. And a fantastic sketch in the Guardian follows the night all the way through, from the “promised price of entry on the door” rising to the last song: that catchy auto-tuned Nick Clegg apology, I'm Sorry. Here’s an extract:

Undercover journalists at the event are likely to be found crowding around Vince Cable who, in an effort to impress, will be indiscreetly undermining his impartiality on a range of issues for anyone who cares to watch. Simon Hughes will be found reminding everyone that he actually drives a taxi, and as such is able to give people a ride home. There will be no takers. A remixed dance version of the Stealers Wheel classic Stuck in the Middle with You will be played on repeat.

The line-up of guest DJs, according to the website, is as follows:

DJ Fazza.T a.k.a FatBoy Tim MP

DJ Dizzle Fizzle MP


DJ Caron Lindsay

To you and me, that’s Lib Dem MPs Tim Farron, Don Foster, Alistair Carmichael and Caron Lindsay. Attendees can place their bets on who will be the “DJ of the Night”. And if that isn’t enticing enough, the description to tempt us to the event goes: “Do you want to get down with Ashdown? Shake a tail feather with Sarah Teather? Or maybe do the hustle with Bob Russell? Well, now is your chance!”

Tickets cost £10 each (or £9k for students, as a few wags on Twitter have suggested), and the disco is to raise funds to fight the Lib Dems’ Cambridge seat, which is currently represented by Julian Huppert. Huppert himself will be the disco's MC, although, according to one well-placed Lib Dem Disco source, “he’ll look like a supply teacher at a drum and bass convention”.

I caught up with DJ Ali C (aka the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael) this afternoon at Lib Dem conference, and he gave me an exclusive insight into what his set will include:

I have a list of three. And let me just say that one of them might possibly involve a band which included a Native America, a construction worker, a leather man, a traffic policeman, and encourage them [attendees], as it will be the Sabbath at that time, it will be after midnight, that they should engage with a particular Christian organisation. And I think knowing Liberal Democrat social functions as I do, I anticipate that that will be a fairly attractive proposition.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

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 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage