Point of view: Ed delivers a speech at the Science Museum in June. Photo: Getty
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Commons Confidential: Ed’s accusing finger

John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness who chairs the Blairite faction, was accused by the wobbly one’s praetorian guard of stirring the pot.

Milibandites point an accusing finger at Labour’s Progress tendency for destabilising tales of plots and supposed letters demanding the head of Ed. John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness and a former frontbencher who chairs the Blairite faction, was accused by the wobbly one’s praetorian guard of stirring the pot. The intended beneficiary, according to a well-placed snout, is the business-friendly Chuka Umunna, under the spell of Peter Mandelson. Big money is apparently lined up behind an Umunna leadership bid, whenever it comes, with the Progress sugar daddy Lord Sainsbury ready to open a fat chequebook that has been kept shut to Labour since Ed Milibrother beat David. Just because Mil the Younger is now paranoid, that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of who is out to get him.

Buller Boy Cameron will be desperate to avoid another of his Dave the Sexist blunders at the G20 in Brisbane. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady is also attending the summit of international leaders. During a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Prime Minister peered into the audience for questions and picked “the lady in the red dress”. The lady in red was O’Grady.

Dave the Sexist’s spinners claimed that the bright lights had blinded their man. This excuse is feasible but couldn’t be deployed after he suggested, with schoolboy innuendo, that Nadine Dorries, the Con MP, was “extremely frustrated” or after he instructed Labour’s Angela Eagle, “Calm down, dear.”

Labour’s deputy leader is unfairly stereotyped as dour. I bring you two further examples of Harriet Harman’s humour. The row over feminist T-shirts that were allegedly made in a Mauritian sweatshop isn’t funny but Harperson raises a laugh at events by quipping that she owns tights older than members of Young Labour. She also claims to have been mistaken several times for the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry. Only the tribal Harman could be relieved to be confused with a Labour-supporting male artist rather than with Claire Perry, the Tory minister.

I’ve heard a new name mentioned for speaker when John Bercow hangs up his cape. It is that of Stephen Pound, the tattooed Ealing wit. Popular Pound, a former merchant navy seaman and bus conductor, is follically challenged, so the wig that goes with the job may prove a greater inducement than the apartment.

Alan Johnson isn’t interested in a new job, but the former home secretary’s one-time special adviser Mario Dunn has popped up in a new role. Un-Super Mario is spinning for Maximus, the US firm now doing Atos’s old work of assessing the “fitness” of disabled benefit claimants. Nasty work if you can get it. 

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 13 November 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Nigel Farage: The Arsonist

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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