“The Prime Minister requests the pleasure of the company of Kevin Maguire . . .” So read the invitation to Downing Street meeja drinks. Pleasure? I doubt it. More necessity when David Cameron’s bidding was extended to the Westminster lobby, of which yours truly is a member. But Flashman must really hate Ed Balls. The hastily arranged No 10 reception coincided with festive drinks announced a fortnight earlier by the shadow chancellor. The Buller Boy hoped to lure hacks away from an opponent who constantly winds him up with hand signals. Downing Street’s Mr Temper Tantrum is still furious he was rebuked by the Speaker for calling Balls a “muttering idiot”.
I gave George Osborne’s kids’ Christmas party at No 11 a wide berth. Osborne posing, all avuncular, with kids of political hacks while grabbing cash from hard-pressed families would’ve been too much to stomach.
The joy of working in the Palace of Westminster is what you hear from bumping into people. This year’s initiation ceremony to join the Bullingdon Club, disclosed an Oxford student who has a chum in that oafish society, was to burn a £50 note in front of a beggar. I wonder if Dave and George, Boris, too, swell with pride, recalling how they were all into this hooray henrying together before imposing austerity on low- and middle-earning Britons.
The Tory Boy Andrew Griffiths, one of Cameron’s arrogant young thrusters, sounded a tad delusional during the Christmas bash of the all-party Beer Group. Jonathan Neame, boss of family brewing firm Shepherd Neame, recalled with contentment how “James Bond now has a beer instead of a dry Martini” in Skyfall. Heineken poured a lot of money into that product placement. Immodest Griffiths responded with a statement of such superfluous conceit, it was more Johnny English than 007: “I want to quash the rumour that even though James Bond is a beer drinker I’m going to be the next James Bond.” I’m sure Daniel Craig would like to end any idle speculation that he may stand for parliament in Burton.
Demands from constituencies and charities for raffle prizes of bottles of whisky, often signed by the PM or a party leader, are an occupational hazard for MPs. The £30 cost is unclaimable on expenses and the annual bill runs into hundreds of pounds. Steve McCabe, the genial Birmingham Selly Oak MP with a burr unsmoothed by 35 years out of Port Glasgow, told a tale of a Scottish Labour comrade with a reputation for parsimony. The MP retired and his successor willingly supplied whisky for a fundraising draw. “Och, ah see they now dae full size bottles,” observed the local worthy. The new MP asked: “Whit dae ye mean?” “Yer predecessor,” answered the worthy, “said they only sauld miniatures in the Commons.”
Tories in Clacton voted for a five-year residency criterion before people moving into the area qualify for support. A case of The Only Way Isn’t Essex? Most Clacton residents seem originally from London anyway.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror