Commons Confidential: Liz, Dave and Eddie
Plus: how to whip MPs.
The privileged background of David Cameron, the benefit axeman, has guaranteed the Prime Minister a cushy life in a different Britain from the one that is experienced by the victims of his welfare cuts. A well-to-do snout recalled a meeting of the medieval Privy Council attended by, among others, Her Maj, Prince Edward and the Tory toff. Dave Snooty and Eddie, Earl of Wessex, attended Heatherdown, the haughty preparatory school near Ascot in Berkshire. The prince was a couple of years ahead of the PM and a contemporary of his brother, Alex, so Cameron and the earl began, according to the snout, swapping notes about old school chums. The cosy chat prompted the Queen to observe: “It’s a small world.” Your world, Ma’am, a world shared with an Old Etonian Buller Boy who is a fifth cousin and married to an heiress, is very small indeed.
The key to whipping MPs successfully is to know absolutely everything about a flock – birthday, partner, children, favourite food – so he or she may be cajoled as well as bullied by the party machine. The Labour whip Lyn Brown sidled up to the Gateshead MP, Ian Mearns, to ask him to speak in a debate on a Friday. Mearns, my mole recalled, replied that he had constituency business. “Why don’t you invite Michelle down to London and make a weekend of it?” suggested Brown. “That’s very good,” Mearns answered, “but Grahame might have something to say about it.” Either Brown had confused Gateshead’s Ian Mearns with Easington’s Grahame Morris, married to the aforementioned Michelle, or offering the wife of another MP as an inducement is an unusual new weapon in Ed Miliband’s whips’ office.
The 15 Tory canvassers who thought it funny to march up the drive to the Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle’s Chorley house were fortunate that the Deputy Speaker wasn’t at home. Otherwise they’d have met Gordon –Hoyle’s Rottweiler with the great clunking paw.
The actor Giles Watling, who played Oswald the vicar in Bread, Carla Lane’s 1980s TV comedy about duckers and divers in an economically depressed Liverpool, has tipped up as a Tory councillor in Tendring, Essex. He oversaw the sending of council-tax bills to previously exempt families. The sons of Nellie, the formidable matriarch in Bread, would find a use for the Mersey should Watling return to Liverpool.
Ben Bradshaw, the twowheeled enthusiast, has discovered a gap in the tsar market: the government has no cycle champion, despite being led by a prime minister who, in opposition, regularly pedalled to the House of Commons for the TV cameras. A job for Andrew Mitchell?
Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror