Yvette Cooper used the bungling of her opposite number to Labour's political advantage. Photo: Getty
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Labour is the real winner after the European Arrest Warrant vote that wasn't

Labour is set to use an opposition day debate on the eve of the Rochester and Strood by-election to debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant.

Last night, the House of Commons fell into disarray as furious Tory MPs discovered that they would not be voting on the European Arrest Warrant, accusing the government of misleadingly ducking an issue that would see some backbenchers rebel.

The Labour party jumped on Theresa May's bungling with Yvette Cooper leaping up and proposing her own motion to postpone the vote. This led to some extraordinary filibustering from the Tories as they attempted to buy time for as many of their MPs, including David Cameron hurrying in in white tie having left the Lord Mayor's Banquet early, to turn up and vote.

Labour's motion was defeated by just 43 votes. But such a close vote, with 35 Tories rebelling to vote in favour of the motion, was a sign that the Labour party – which actually supports the government in wanting to opt in to the warrant – was calling the shots as government authority in the Commons dangerously wobbled.

Eventually, the government's original motion, which so controversially did not even mention the European Arrest Warrant, was comfortably passed, by 464 to 38. However, it looks like Labour continues to be the real winner, as it is reported this morning that the party is set to use an opposition day debate on Wednesday next week to discuss and vote on opting in to the warrant.

The date scheduled, 19 November, is on the eve of the Rochester and Strood by-election, which is awkward for the Prime Minister. To see rebellions from his eurosceptic MPs, as well as having to assert a pro-European position, the day preceding a by-election where it looks like the anti-EU Ukip is likely to defeat the Conservatives and take another of their seats is a very difficult situation for the PM.

Having been constantly criticising May in recent weeks for attempting to delay the vote until after the by-election, it looks like Labour is now deciding when and how the vote will play out with maximum damage to the government. The crisis of confidence in its leadership meant last week was one of Labour's very worst. But it has grasped this political opportunity smartly, and it looks like the spotlight will soon be back on Tory tensions.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Qusai Al Shidi/Flickr
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I can’t follow Marie Kondo's advice – even an empty Wotsits packet “sparks joy” in me

I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I have been brooding lately on the Japanese tidying freak Marie Kondo. (I forgot her name so I typed “Japanese tidying freak” into Google, and it was a great help.) The “Japanese” bit is excusable in this context, and explains a bit, as I gather Japan is more on the case with the whole “being tidy” thing than Britain, but still.

Apart from telling us that we need to take an enormous amount of care, to the point where we perform origami when we fold our underpants, which is pretty much where she lost me, she advises us to throw away anything that does not, when you hold it, “spark joy”. Perhaps I have too much joy in my life. I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

After a while I gave up on this because I was getting a bit too happy with all the memories, so then I thought to myself, about her: “This is someone who isn’t getting laid enough,” and then I decided that was a crude and ungallant thought, and besides, who am I to wag the finger? At least if she invites someone to her bedroom no one is going to run screaming from it, as they would if I invited anyone to my boudoir. (Etym: from the French “bouder”, to sulk. How very apt in my case.) Marie Kondo – should bizarre circumstance ever conspire to bring her to the threshold – would run screaming from the Hovel before she’d even alighted the stairs from the front door.

I contemplate my bedroom. As I write, the cleaning lady is in it. To say that I have to spend half an hour cleaning out empty Wotsits packets, and indeed wotnot, before I let her in there should give you some idea of how shameful it has got. And even then I have to pay her to do so.

A girlfriend who used to be referred to often in these pages, though I think the term should be a rather less flippant one than “girlfriend”, managed to get round my natural messiness problem by inventing a game called “keep or chuck”.

She even made up a theme song for it, to the tune from the old Spiderman TV show. She would show me some object, which was not really rubbish, but usually a book (it may not surprise you to learn that it is the piles of books that cause most of the clutter here), and say, “Keep or chuck?” in the manner of a high-speed game show host. At one point I vacillated and so she then pointed at herself and said, “Keep or chuck?” I got the message.

These days the chances of a woman getting into the bedroom are remote. For one thing, you can’t just walk down the street and whistle for one much as one would hail a cab, although my daughter is often baffled by my ability to attract females, and suspects I have some kind of “mind ray”. Well, if I ever did it’s on the blink now, and not only that – right now, I’m not even particularly bothered that it’s on the blink. Because, for another thing, I would frankly not care to inflict myself upon anyone else at the moment.

It was all a bit of a giggle eight years ago, when I was wheeled out of the family home and left to my own devices. Of course, when I say “a bit of a giggle”, I mean “terrifying and miserable”, but I had rather fewer miles on the clock than I do now, and a man can, I think, get away with a little bit more scampish behaviour, and entertain a few more illusions about the future and his own plausibility as a character, when he is squarely in his mid-forties than when he is approaching, at speed, his middle fifties.

Death has rather a lot to do with it, I suppose. I had not actually seen, or touched, a dead body until I saw, and touched, my own father’s a few weeks ago. That’s what turns an abstract into a concrete reality. You finally put that to one side and gird up your loins – and then bloody David Bowie snuffs it, and you find yourself watching the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” over and over again, and reach the inescapable conclusion that death is not only incredibly unpleasant, it is also remorseless and very much nearer than you think.

And would you, dear reader, want to be involved with anyone who kept thinking along those lines? I mean, even if he learned how to fold his undercrackers into an upright cylinder, like a napkin at a fancy restaurant, before putting them in his drawer? When he doesn’t even have a drawer?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war