Tesco. Photo: Getty
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Commons Confidential: Tough talk at Tesco

Plus: the latest jibe doing the Labour rounds.

You may recall the Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott parting ways with her distressed child to traipse through the division lobby on Michael Cockerell’s documentary Inside the Commons. She earns sympathy over the episode at meetings in marginal Cardiff Central. Curious, then, to learn that, under a deal between the parties, MPs with kids on the parliamentary estate may be nodded through – permitted to vote without appearing in person before the tellers. Labour whips mutter darkly that Willott walked for the cameras. That’s either a heinous slur or fancy footwork on her part.

Unison’s organiser Melanie Onn is fighting hard to hold Great Grimsby for Labour against Ukip’s Victoria Ayling – not the brightest of the Purple Shirts. Brainbox Ayling triggered guffaws by asking: “What happens when renewable energy runs out?” Not that the ossified Grimsby Labour Party has been renewed under Austin Mitchell MP. A visitor was excited to discover a stairlift at the local HQ, the first he’d seen in a party building. Enthusiasm waned when it was suggested that their membership was so advanced it was for the youth officer.

Laura Sandys is counting the days. The retiring Tory pro-European in Nigel Farage’s targeted Thanet South seat was struck by the similarities between parliament and prison during a recent meeting with ex-cons in Margate. MPs and inmates both split into gangs. Whips play the role of warders, enforcing discipline. Sandys refers to her forthcoming “parole” when the Commons is dissolved on 30 March.

Pity the marketing man Jonathan Lord, compared unfavourably to a 1970s Teddy boy band. The Woking Tory MP was volunteered to replace the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at some Surrey hustings. Howard Kaye, Hunt’s train-driver Labour rival, described it as like buying a ticket for Royal Blood and seeing Showaddywaddy instead. Still, the show must go on.

As the Chipping Norton chumocracy rallies around Jeremy Clarkson, oop north the Brigg and Goole Tory blabbermouth Andrew Percy is on his own. He harangued Gillian Boatman, Labour Mayor of Goole Town Council, who works on the tills at Tesco, claiming she hadn’t invited him to a war memorial ceremony. Company rules prevented Boatman from answering back. An FOI request backfired when Percy found his name on the list. The council published a helpful letter from the forgetful MP explaining, politely, why he was unable to attend.

The latest jibe doing the Labour rounds is that Ed “Two Kitchens” Miliband is so unpopular he isn’t including his picture on leaflets in Doncaster North.

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 19 March 2015 issue of the New Statesman, British politics is broken

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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.