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Commons Confidential: Gorgeous and the Beast

Galloway v Skinner.

It’s not been a good few weeks for the TaxPayers’ Alliance. The Tory front for tax avoiders was widely ridiculed for its silence over the squandering of £10m of taxpayers’ money on Margaret Thatcher’s imperial send-off, plus another large dollop of public funds to recall parliament early.

Every month, the nontaxpayers organise a private briefing for right-whinge fellow-travellers in the Mothers’ Union, renting the large meeting room for a Conservative Party bigwig to strut his or her stuff. I hear that the Cabinet Office minister John Hayes, supposedly David Cameron’s link with backbenchers, went down like a lead balloon. My informant muttered that “Haywire” Hayes sounded more like he was from Planet Zog than a Downing Street emissary.

Nothing’s too good for the workers: David “Brains” Miliband was spied by a snout brooding over suits at a Savile Row tailor to tog himself up before Labour’s latest lost leader heads to New York and a £300,000 salary at International Rescue. Milibands are go.

He’s a wily old Beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner. The veteran lefty settled two scores with a single bravura performance in the House of Commons on the scrapping of Prime Minister’s Questions for Thatcher’s imperial fandango: the Beast demolished Thatcherite myths and stole George Galloway’s moment. He’s never forgotten how Galloway, who hates sharing the limelight, used a column in the Daily Record years ago to have a personal pop.

Lanarkshire’s Jimmy Hood, an ex-miner like Skinner, took the Beast’s speaking notes to auction for party funds.

David Blunkett felt compelled to defend himself at a PLP meeting when a huffing and puffing John Prescott accused disgruntled Blairites of publicly undermining Ed Miliband. On the defensive, Blunkers insisted that when newspapers rang him up, it was his duty to write for them. I see in the register of members’ interests that the Daily Mail paid Blunkers £30,000 in the past 12 months and he picked up another £100,000 advising the Sun King Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The struggle takes many forms, comrades.

My snout on British Airways Flight 0740 from Heathrow to Vienna observed that Alastair Campbell was one of the last travellers to board, in no hurry to put down a newspaper in the departure lounge. Comical Ali tweeted a dig at a lady agitated about late passengers without identifying himself as a dawdler. He was on his way to Kosovo. Bombing Serbia is now Campbell’s business-class ticket to a profitable career.

Discretion prevents me from naming the Tory MP who gave Thatcher’s farewell a wide berth: “If they blow up St Paul’s, it’s my chance to be prime minister.”

Kevin Maguire is the 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 29 April 2013 issue of the New Statesman, What makes us human?