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Commons Confidential: Chris Huhne’s motor is still running

The former cabinet minister retains hopes of one day leading the Lib Dems.

The Scalextric car racing track in the entrance to the Liberal Democrat jamboree in Brighton forced Chris Huhne to accelerate past an embarrassing photo stop. The former cabinet minister’s significant other, Carina Trimingham, gave a look that could’ve stopped a runaway truck when the one-time party press aide was invited to demonstrate how fast she could drive. “Rhino Hide” Huhne won points for turning up at the conference when he and the former Mrs H, Vicky Pryce, are scheduled to share a dock over allegations of his’n’hers motoring offences. Rhino Hide, by the way, believes he deserves to be reinstated in the cabinet if acquitted and, as one of his remaining friends insists, the Hampshire MP retains hopes of one day leading the Lib Dems – into coalition with Labour.

I heard a full account of Ed Miliband squashing a juicy bug on the shoulder of the high Tory Charles Moore’s expensive Savile Row threads. Lord Snooty told in the Daily Telegraph how Mili’s dispatch of the capitalist parasite, as the pair shared anti-Cameron quality time outside a north London café, left a bloody stain on the shoulder of his light grey jacket. Ever the gentleman, Moore spared Killer Ed further blushes by omitting to report how Mili pulled out a white handkerchief to mop up the slaughtered insect’s copious blood, inadvertently spreading the crimson stain over a wider area. The Labour leader’s Rottie, Tom Baldwin, teased Moore that the Torygraph would no longer be able to portray Miliband as a ten-stone weakling, incapable of hurting a fly.

The Sheriff of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is a secret archery enthusiast. The great wealth redistributor, who steals from the poor to give tax cuts to the rich, was overheard muttering, “I might take this up,” as he pinged arrows during a parliamentary exhibition. A snout avoiding the sheriff’s aim mumbled that IDS is turning the welfare state into The Hunger Games, so shooting at the jobless could be a second-term Tory manifesto promise.

The fastest-growing all-party parliamentary group is the UK-Brazil trips’R’us chaired by the Harlow Tory Robert Halfon. My man doing the sambain the airport VIP departure lounge denied the attraction was Rio hosting the footie World Cup in 2014, followed by the Olympics in 2016. International factfinding Missions will never be so glamorous. Does Copacabana beckon our grey politicians?

The King of the Plebs, Andrew Mitchell, will never live down the P word. As he pulled up outside the Cabinet Office in a Polo to issue his non-apology, a wag sniggered that the last time the millionaire public school boy saw the polo, he was drinking Veuve Clicquot with the Hoorays at Cowdray Park.

John Mann, the Bassetlaw bruiser, was eavesdropped on the terrace informing schoolkids that he might have been a train driver if he hadn’t gone into politics. A radar-lugged MP, lamenting Mann’s role in derailing the expenses gravy train, remarked how he wished that the member for Hair Shirt North had.

Kevin Maguire is 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 01 October 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Labour conference special