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Nick Clegg’s perks of high office were withdrawn within hours of his former line manager David Cameron’s victory.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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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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