The Minister for Murdoch, Jeremy Hunt, is limping like a wounded wildebeest on the edge of the cabinet herd. It’s a lucky break for Andrew Lansley the quack doctor, the diary-confused Theresa May, and even innumerate George Osborne. The press pack changing course to pursue Hunt relieved the pressure on his hounded colleagues, if not the Prime Minister, who was dragged kicking and screaming to the House of Commons.
Lansley, the Unhealthy Secretary, was spotted smiling in the precincts of Westminster for the first time since Nye Bevan was around. The oleaginous Hunt’s defence that he barely knows his good friends Rupert and James jarred with an appearance last May at a parliamentary Press Gallery luncheon. Then, in more innocent times, the Culture Secretary quipped that James moving to New York meant he needed to be aware of a five-hour time difference when calling to get speeches cleared. Close Tory-News Corp ties were cemented, Hunt added, by both he and Old Man Murdoch taking Chinese wives. But I doubt that Hunted will laugh at his own jokes when he’s summoned before the Leveson inquiry.
Theresa May, by the way, has an unflattering nickname. Behind her back, the kitten-heeled Home Secretary is called Imelda May by boys and girls in blue seething over pay freezes, slashed allowances and thinning ranks.
The truncheon-carrying informant grumbled that at least the Filipina politician with a shoe fetish stuffed the wallets of police officers guarding her.
Likes to splash the cash, that William Hague. The Foreign Secretary, I see, reimbursed the department the cost of a couple of Christmas dinners, one priced £1,284.28 and the other £1,264.07, at his official London flat in Carlton Gardens. The bills were on top of the £3,211.02 this column reported last week that Billy the Kid repaid for a private soirée at Chevening, the country pile in Kent that also comes with the job. That’s a belt-loosening £5,759.37 splurged on food and drink by a minister who often preaches austerity for others.
That horny-handed son of toil, Chris Williamson, is perhaps Britain’s only vegan bricklayer. The Labour MP for Derby North, however, was surprised to learn in the tearoom that he isn’t the only brickie with a seat in the Commons. Steve Rotheram, a burly Scouser, has laid a fair few walls in his time, too. In a party increasingly dominated by career politicians, a wag who lifted heavy objects for a living before reclining on the green benches suggested the formation of an Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Tendency.
A Downing Street snout whispers there’s no shortage of volunteers clamouring to join the No 10 payroll. The trouble is that they’re not the people Dave wants. The word is that Neil O’Brien, the big-brained chief thinker at Policy Exchange, is the latest wonker to rebuff an approach. The PM may soon find that beggars can’t be choosers.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror