Commons Confidential: Left to her own Devizes
That brassy Cameroon, Claire Perry, resembled a Home Counties Bet Lynch behind the bar of Strangers’ as she pulled the first pint of a Devizes local ale offered as that week’s guest beer. An irreverent colleague of the statuesque barmaid muttered just out of her hearing that he feared she’d serve it like G&T, with ice and a slice. Perry was in party mood and recalled her nominations when the Wadworth brewery invited suggestions to name a couple of dray horses. Mercifully, the coalition queen’s proposals, Dave and Nick, were rejected. Within my hearing, if not hers, the Tory MP spluttered into his pint of best that a team of horses wasn’t meant to pull in opposite directions.
The demand by Newcastle United’s lager-swilling squillionaire owner, Mike Ashley, who has agreed a sponsorship deal with the legalised loan shark Wonga, that football fans give 4,214 per cent support has provoked sparring in the Labour dugout. The Northumberland ex-miner Ian Lavery’s vow he’d never watch his team in shirts advertising financial misery was spotted by his fellow ex-pitman Ronnie Campbell as a Rahm Emanuelesque opportunity never to let a crisis go to waste. Campbell, who sits for Blyth Valley, asked Lavery if he could borrow the Wansbeck MP’s two season tickets if they were going spare.
Sticking with Wonga, their apology to the anti-rip-off campaigner Stella Creasy for cyber abuse didn’t hide that “St Ella” isn’t flavour of the month with her Westminster colleagues. My snout on the back benches asserted that the Walthamstow warrior would top a Parliamentary Labour Party unpopularity poll. Your disbelieving correspondent checked with two other MPs, who concurred. The praise she gains for ability is undermined, said her detractors, by ambition and a lack of clubbability. Backstabbing in politics is worse than in newspapers, a feat I thought impossible.
The Bassetlaw bruiser John Mann’s war on other MPs’ expenses, regardless of political hue, constantly ready at the sniff of a fiddle to demand an inquiry, isn’t exactly endearing him to the other 647. One of Mann’s victims whimpered he wished the clock could be turned back to 2002 when Mann, before buying a hairshirt, with his own money, was the 19th-highest claimer. The zeal of the convert is terrifying for others.
“Any book which starts with the opening line ‘The idea for this book started with a blunder by David Cameron’ is sure to grab my attention!” wrote the Prime Minister to the lobby hack Colin Brown, author of Real Britannia. Politician disasters come and go but the inner PR man in the Prime Schmoozer never fades.
The Labour victor in the Manchester Central by-election, Lucy Powell, collected names outside polling stations from the age of eight. Her father calculated, correctly, that no voter could be so cold-hearted as to ignore a smiling little girl with a clipboard. Kidz4Labour could be Ed Miliband’s answer to a declining activist base.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror