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Lamb to the slaughter

Norman Lamb, the employment relations minister, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The past has caught up with a Liberal Democrat making it easier for bosses to sack hired hands without compensation. His Labour shadow Ian Murray acquired a rare, unsigned copy of a book Lamb published in 1998 with the snappy title of Remedies in the Employment Tribunal: Damages for Discrimination and Unfair Dismissal. Back then, the little Lamb toiled as an employment solicitor. His manual advises claimants how to maximise pay-offs. It may be mixing metaphors but Stormin’ Norman appears to be a poacher-turned-gamekeeper.

The Europhile Denis MacShane is probably Britain’s numéro un fan of François Hollande. The Rotherham polyglot’s mobile phone contains the personal number of the French Socialist presidential candidate. So imagine the Labour MP’s anguish when his daughter Emilie, a citizen of the Fifth Republic, informed père she intended to vote for the fiery Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Front de Gauche in the first round. Ever the pragmatist, MacEurope’s palpitations slowed when she assured him that she’d switch to Hollande in the second-round run-off against Napoleon Sarkozy. That’s one extra vote in the bag. Only a few million more needed if a Socialist is to inhabit the Élysée Palace after 17 years of internal exile.

William Hague may be enjoying healthy royalties from his fine tome William Pitt the Younger. The Foreign Secretary reimbursed the public purse a mouth-watering £3,211.02 for a private dinner in the Chevening pile he shares with the lodger Nick Clegg. Evidently, austerity has yet to dampen the spirits of cabinet ministers on grace-and-favour estates.

Liam Fox, the former minister for taking your best friend to work, believes he’ll receive a recall to arms from Commander Cameron, according to a gaggle of Tory MPs I fell into conversation with. The right-whingers, however, reckoned that ministerial waters had closed over the head of the ex-defence secretary and it’s a cold war for him from now on. The trio, by the way, hinted there’ll be a sizeable Tory rebellion in 2013 to join Labour and the Lib Dems in vetoing Dave’s cull of 50 Commons seats. Expelling elected MPs will be tricky to sell if the Lords remains packed with 800 unelected lawmakers.

Boris Johnson’s attack dingo, Lynton Crosby, won’t hang around when the London battle is over. The Aussie bruiser, imported by the Cons to secure BoJo a second mayoral term, says that he doesn’t want to work for Dave. One Buller Boy is enough for anybody.

The substantial figure of Toby Perkins, Labour’s campaign manager in the ill-fated Bradford West by-election, received warm applause when called to speak before the PLP. “Think what would have happened if we’d won,” quipped the genial Chesterfield MP. “There’d have been silence and no thanks,” replied a voice at the back. Too true.

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 30 April 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The puppet master