Tricky Dicky: Richard Desmond in June. Photo: Getty
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Common Confidential: Dirty Des flirts with Nige to make Dave jealous

My informant whispered that Dirty Des is frustrated that a £1.2bn fortune has bought him everything except respect.

Richard Desmond yearns to be embraced by the establishment. In flirting with Nigel Farage, the media tycoon might hope to catch David Cameron’s eye. My informant whispered that Dirty Des is frustrated that a £1.2bn fortune has bought everything except respect. He donates noisily to charities and yet critics whisper disapprovingly about Horny Housewives and TV porn. So Dirty Des, who slipped Tony Blair £100,000 in 2001, canoodles with Nigel to make Dave jealous. But would Desmond guarantee his newspapers’ election support for the Tories rather than Ukip if Cameron recognised the pornographer’s contribution to public life? Arise, Sir Dirty Des, or Lord Desmond of Asian Babes?

The Twitter spat between Labour’s Ivan Lewis and Tom Watson over the party’s contest for a new leader in Scotland continued, I’m told, when the pair bumped into each other outside Ed Miliband’s office. Ed’s aide Anna Yearley had to ask the battling MPs to pipe down because the interns were disturbed by the swearing. On the upside, both Lewis and Watson showed a fighting spirit often lacking in the leadership.

With austerity cuts of £1.5m imposed on Kew Gardens, Chancellor George Osborne is as popular with staff threatened by redundancy as a plague of locusts. This could prove tricky. A mole muttered that Osborne’s mother, Lady Felicity, gives her son a season ticket to the botanical gardens as an annual gift.

The Goulash Co-operative, formed to buy the Gay Hussar restaurant in London, is to stage an all-day “eat-in” on 8 December after the Malaysian owners refused to sell the Soho haunt, which is still threatened with closure. Union Jimmys Airlie and Reid, who led the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in to save the shipyard from Ted Heath’s axe, will be smiling as they chew their celestial sandwiches.

It’s the end of a Sunday sofa era as Barney Jones steps down after over 20 years as editor, first of Breakfast with Frost, and then of The Andrew Marr Show. Jones has often been filmed at the entrance to the BBC meeting leaders of the opposition and prime ministers. A school caretaker once remarked they did similar jobs, clearing up after others. Jones, to his credit, agreed.

I owe a Tory informant an eclair after Jeremy Paxman confirmed this column’s disclosure in July that the Conservatives wanted him to run for London mayor. Pity, really. I’d have loved to watch Paxman’s former BBC colleagues grill a poacher-turned-gamekeeper.

Being Mark Reckless is a lonely business. The Tory defector to Ukip was spied eating lunch alone, facing the wall, in parliament’s terrace café. 

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 04 December 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Deep trouble

Photo: Getty
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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.