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Commons Confidential: The lure of tea with Queenie

How long do MPs' anti-monarchist principles survive when there are Palace garden party invitations to secure?

The Southend seat of the Tory time-server David Amess is 200 miles from Cardiff, 300 miles from Belfast and 350 miles from Edinburgh, so it is commendable of the English MP to take a keen interest in the affairs of all three. Amess, who after 30 years in parliament is probably best known (if at all) for falling for a Channel 4 Brass Eye prank about a mythical drug called “cake” that proved how gullible rent-a-quote MPs are, is one of a band of English Conservatives whipped into asking questions about nations short of Tories. So Amess tabled the first for Scottish Questions, the second for the Welsh, then the first for Northern Ireland. Labour’s shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith, ridicules the group as Cameron’s human shields.

Her Majesty has started an annual mad scramble in the Houses of Parliament. MPs and peers are offered a choice of three garden parties this year, the first of which will be held in May. Each lawmaker can take an insignificant other for tea and cucumber sandwiches with Queenie on the lawn of Buckingham Palace. A spouse “wanting a day” out is the old excuse of Labour republicans. The arch-anti-monarchist Willie Hamilton’s reputation took a hell of a beating when he was discovered to have surrendered and held a china cup and saucer at Her Majesty’s command.

News organisations sending out daily emails have a rival in John Spellar, the hyperactive MP for Warley in the West Midlands. The former whip, a member of Labour’s shadow foreign affairs team, sends out three editions a day of Spellar News, including an early-bird special before 7am. The missives link to up to 20 items around the world.

Spellar has a long interest in monitoring publications. When he was a national official of the EETPU electricians’ union, he was a fanatical anti-communist. Spellar read the Morning Star every day and filed items on left-wingers in the labour movement. When the obituaries lamented the passing of a comrade, the unforgiving Spellar marked him or her down as one more communist off the list.

Nadine Dorries, MP for Bushtucker Central, may be upset to learn that she was short-changed on I Want to Be a Celebrity . . . Get Me In There. She’s yet to register how much she was paid to have insects crawl over her body but a sum of £40,000 has been mentioned. Not bad for a few weeks’ work. Until you discover Baroness (Oona) King, persuaded to put her skates on for Dancing on Ice, rejected £70,000 to lark about in the jungle.

Workless and Pensionless Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s ministerial motor is a shiny new black Range Rover. Nothing’s too good for the persecutor of the poor, eh, Mr Benefit Slasher?

Mice have infested the Labour end of the tearoom. Insert own joke about how it compliments the rats at the Tory end.

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 28 January 2013 issue of the New Statesman, After Chavez