Commons confidential

All the gossip from the Westminster Village

  • Trying and failing not to gloat over the expenses bloodletting is a chuckling Neil Hamilton. The Tory lost his Tatton seat to that white knight, Martin Bell, the sleaze-buster who found “compelling” evidence that Hamilton received between £18,000 and £25,000 in the cash-for-questions scandal. Fast-forward 12 years, and the richest man in the cabinet, Shaun Woodward, has banked £100,000 of public dosh and the Tory rich kid Greg Barker made £325,000 on a flat purchased with the help of taxpayers’ money. Sleaze has gone from Harrods to houses, brown envelopes to receipts. Bell will be spoiled for choice next year if he puts on his lucky white suit.
  • A rare victory for Gordon Brown over David Cameron. The PM enjoyed three standing ovations against two for the Tory pretender at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual bedpan rattle. My snout at the Harrogate conference heard both Big Gordie and Druggie Dave refer to their own dead children while praising the Florence Nightingales. Big Gordie enjoyed a fourth stander when, that evening, he returned to London and told the Parliamentary Labour Party its convictions would beat the Cons. With the scandal over cash-for-moats fizzing away, both parties risk convictions of the non-belief variety.
  • Georgia Gould, that ambitious student with famous friends, may or may not be flat-hunting in Sarf London by the time you read this. Gould selflessly pledged to leave the Regent’s Park pad of her pollster daddy, Lord Philip, if selected in gritty Erith and Thamesmead. Whatever her future domestic arrangements, a selection extended by the curious case of the torn-up postal votes in Labour’s fortress-like Victoria Street HQ proved too much for three of the constituency party’s 279 members. One quit over eight candidates repeatedly banging on his door. Two others took more drastic action. They died.
  • That nicely scrubbed BBC hack, Ben Wright, must be one of the best-connected reporters in Westminster. He is the son of the Labour egghead Tony Wright, but this young boy can’t be accused of political partiality. Wright Jr is stepping out with one Poppy Mitchell-Rose, lipsticked voice of “Sir” George Osborne, trust-fund Tory. Within SW1, she is considered to speak with more authority than her employer.
  • An invitation arrives for the New Local Government Network’s summer bash at the House of Commons. Drinks are on Thursday 25 June. Despite her “lamentable” expenses claims, Hazel Blears is still billed as the cabinet guest star. Who says the flame of optimism flickers no longer in politics?
  • An informant whispers a postscript to those saucy snaps in the Screws of the World of a scantily clad young lady who cavorted in the Mock Gothic Fun Palace with Nigel Griffiths, Big Gordie’s miniature admirer. The word from the informant is that a work experience pupil discovered them on wee Nigel’s laptop and earned himself £10,000. Entrepreneurial spirit New Labour could be proud of!
  • 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 18 May 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Rock bottom