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Clegg talks Double Dutch

The Deputy PM is using his knowledge of Dutch to foil Cameron's spies.

Mistrust is deepening between the Europhobic David Cameron and the Eurofanatic Nick Clegg. I hear Downing Street insisted that a No 10 minder attend a meeting in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office lair with Herman Van Rompuy of the European Council. Van Rompuy is that elusive creature, a near-famous Belgian. Clegg is even rarer – a polyglot Brit. The Lib Dem internationalist has five languages: French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Tory. Irritated at No 10’s snooping, Clever Cloggs conducted the entire session in Dutch, so the PM’s cloth-eared spy was left fuming in the corner, listening but not understanding a double- Dutch conversation.

Regulars at a watering hole in Shropshire have sided with a local copper against a prominent Tory MP after an unfortunate incident in the toilets of the Huntsman of Little Wenlock. DS Graham  Cooper was cautioned for common assault against Mark Pritchard, the cop pushing the Wrekin politician into a wall when the pair fell out. My snout with the pewter tankard whispers that drinkers rallied behind the fuzz, unfurling a “Welcome Back Graham” banner and purchasing drinks for Cooper when the detective popped back in. Pritchard, on the other hand, must buy his own drinks.

To the TUC rally in Hyde Park, London. Ed Miliband supping tea with James Smith, the actor who plays Glenn Cullen in The Thick of It, wasn’t his only private cuppa. Red Ed (as was) looked very comradely with Red Len, that is, McCluskey of Unite. The risk of a snapper papping the brothers-in-arms for a Tory rag proved resistible for a One-Nation Labour heavy. He positioned his bulky frame in the door to block prying lenses.

I’m told Grumpy Labour’s John Prescott crashed when he copied One-Nation Ed by prowling the stage at a fundraiser for the Jimmy Knapp Cancer Fund. My snout compared Puffing Prezza’s performance to the derailment of a restaurant coach, all spilled words and spluttering. The one-time transport secretary’s expression of “pride” in public ownership of the east coast main line was met by a sound similar to screeching brakes from the direction of Bob Crowbar. The RMT’s high-speed militant complained Prezza did nothing and that routes are in state control only because two private operators, Sea Containers and National Express, hit the buffers. Bad blood has flowed between the pair since Crowbar evicted Prezza from a cheap union flat.

Eric “Rambo” Joyce claims another victim. Brewers of Sunderland’s 111-year-old Double Maxim brown ale were instructed to produce a 4 per cent version of the 4.7 per cent beer for sale in trangers’ Bar. House officials fear strong drink could send another MP berserk. In my experience, members are more likely to fall over than lash out after imbibing strong drink.

Government grants of £8m are Labour’s joint-biggest income source besides union affiliation fees. One wag suggested that such nationalisation of the party would fulfil the dream of Labour’s old Clause Four.

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 29 October 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Something Rotten