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Commons Confidential: Boy George’s wizard costume

The Chancellor dabbled in astrology during his student days, it turns out.

The HS2 route is giving the potato millionaire Andrew Bridgen a severe case of indigestion. The Leicestershire right-winger, who made a fortune selling pre-washed spuds, is a vocal opponent of the £33bn rail link. Bridgen thinks it’s half-baked and has complained in the Commons that trains would whizz at 225 miles per hour just 100 feet from his home in Appleby Magna. The route also passes close to his business, AB Produce, in nearby Measham. I gather he is wondering if he should pull the plug on a proposed anaerobic generator to produce electricity from rotting veg. He could be a Conservative who’s had his chips.

I bumped into a woman who was a student at Oxford University with George Osborne and she reminded me that Boy George, when not Hooray Henrying in wing collar and Edwardian tailcoat as a member of the Buller, was an astrologer for a magazine called Rumpus that was intended to create what it said on the masthead. The mag featured both a topless model and a “page-seven fella”, as well as “Oik” Osborne (known as Oik, you may recall, because he attended St Paul’s rather than Eton) in a wizard’s costume, complete with pointy black hat. Does any reader of the NS have a copy that deserves a wider airing?

The BBC is either very forgiving or very forgetful in gifting the former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell a £295,000 sinecure. The one-time Blairite MP went for Auntie’s jugular after the Hutton report into the death of David Kelly. In 2004, on the evening the report was published, Purnell was fulminating against the BBC on Matthew Bannister’s Radio 5 Live show when I noticed that the corporation’s now director of strategy was regurgitating a Labour Party crib note. Purnell had the grace to blush and shield it with his right hand when I mentioned this on air, but the BBC is feeding the hand that bit it.

Scaremongering about criminals from Romania and Bulgaria flooding into Britain is heard in Labour as well as Ukip circles. An ex-Labour minister recounted flying to Bulgaria to talk about combating organised crime with a defence minister and a police chief. In a moment of lucidity during the talks in Sofia, the former minister claimed, he realised that the people sitting in front of him were behind most of the crime. I wonder if Bulgarian politicians return from London after meeting, say, Theresa May and William Hague and tell journalists that they encountered a couple of dodgy characters. I like to think so.

The nag jokes keep on running. Little Labour’s Ian McCartney, who describes himself as “the Wee Man” on his calling card (“undersized, underestimated, hyperactive”), telephoned to say that he’s buying a racehorse. The MP for Makerfield until 2010 said he’ll call it Tesco Express.

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 25 February 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The cheap food delusion