This photo, of Boris Johnson boxing, is a crude visual metaphor. Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
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Commons Confidential: Big and blond and red all over

Plus: Ashcroft's marketing quandries and a Dennis Skinner raiding party.

Boris “Blond Ambition” Johnson is finding that Tory colleagues are showing a distinct lack of deference to a second-time-around MP yearning to lead the party. The portly Alec Shelbrooke, a son of two teachers, who could be mistaken for a fleshy fogey, in his waistcoat with fob watch and chain, was first elected for a Yorkshire seat while Johnson was on his gap eight years as London mayor. Sticking both thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, he boomed in his poshest voice: “Now, young man, where do you represent?” The flustered self-chosen one spluttered, “Uxbridge,” before Shelbrooke and a group of wind-up merchants standing out of the Speaker’s eyeline burst into giggles, to Johnson’s evident embarrassment.

Nick Clegg’s perks of high office were withdrawn within hours of his former line manager David Cameron’s victory. First to be reclaimed was the redundant deputy PM’s official BlackBerry. The vanquished Lib Dem was overheard muttering in a Putney café that his wife, Miriam, has advised him to buy an iPhone and get out and about to avoid feeling depressed. So far there are no reports of Clegg the Disowned climbing into the back of the family car and expecting to be driven.

I’m told that Dennis Skinner displayed an impressive turn of speed for an 83-year-old to bag his corner seat for the Queen’s Speech. The queue of MPs at the main entrance into the Commons chamber snaked through Members’ Lobby into Central Lobby before the doors were unlocked at 8am. The canny Beast of Bolsover led a Labour raiding party of Ronnie Campbell and the Ians, Lavery and Mearns, through a back door the moment Big Ben chimed the opening time.

The Tory billionaire Michael Ashcroft’s mistake was to believe his own opinion polls and foresee Cameron’s defeat. The PM’s triumph doubtless necessitated a few revisions to his forthcoming biography of the Tory leader, which the one-time tax exile (who resigned his seat in the Lords before the current tax year) had described as Cameron’s obituary. One wag suggested that Ashcroft start by changing the title from Call Me Dave to Call Me David.

Touch naive, the Cornwall Tory Sheryll Murray. She sent to every MP an invitation to join the Palace of Westminster Lions Club (£25 fee plus £7 a month). My snout sniggered: MPs must sign a declaration stating they’re “of good moral character and reputation”.

Douglas Carswell must wake up every morning wondering why he defected to Ukip. Bouncers were hired for a recent Tendring Council meeting, the chief executive fearing trouble as Ukip splinters in that part of Essex. Meanwhile, the session’s date had been switched to avoid a clash with wrestling in the town hall.

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 June 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The myths of Magna Carta

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.