How Theresa May put Balls on the beat

Patrick McLoughlin, the ex-miner who now toils as Tory Chief Whip, is well aware of the depth of Middle England's fury over the axing of child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers. Mrs Chief Whip sent hubby a pithy text denouncing the policy. Perhaps embracing the old adage that trouble shared is trouble halved, McLoughlin showed the disapproving message to George Osborne who, according to an eagle-eyed spy, turned visibly pale - even by the Chancellor's pasty-faced standards. Perhaps restoring harmony chez McLoughlin is as tough as keeping order in the House of Commons.

Theresa May needs to cut and paste with a little more care. The kitten-heeled Home Secretary sent instructions to the Labour shadow, Ed Balls, declaring, "I expect you will do everything in your power" to hit government targets, before issuing the following order: "You will also need to increase the value you get from the front line in order that the quality of visible policing remains high." My snout, Inspector Blunder, concluded after examining May's text with a magnifying glass that the suspect passages were intended for the cops. To expect a shadow minister to maintain bobbies on the beat is to overestimate both his powers and his willingness to join the "big society".

The Cut-servative refrain to justify withdrawing child benefit - that those with the broadest shoulders must bear their fair share of reduced spending - has a hidden meaning. Not that the slogan is deceitful (although it's undoubtedly true that the cuts are falling hardest on the poorest). I'm told the party's front bench has noticed that the physically slight Ed Miliband has narrow shoulders, and so play a game of inserting the expression in speeches.

There was an inevitability about the Sun's apology to Bob Crow after the paper wrongly claimed that the shaven-headed union leader "had a union-subsidised home and luxury car". I am unfamiliar with Brother Bob's domestic arrangements, but his commitment to public transport is so fanatical that he doesn't even drive, let alone enjoy an RMT motor.

Hattie Harperson's backfiring "ginger rodent" gibe earned Danny Alexander his best publicity since the Treasury axeman was spokesman for
the Cairngorms National Park, before he became an MP in 2005. A Lib Dem colleague said Danny the Rat sniggered at the equality queen's joke until he was advised to sound mildly hurt - a role he performed admirably.

A Downing Street elf tells me that George "Grinch" Osborne may have seen off David "Scrooge" Cameron's attempt to hijack Christmas. Regular readers of this column may recall last week's disclosure of how publicity-hungry No 10 tried to elbow aside No 11 to host the Press Gallery kids' party. Well, the elf says the bash is now likely to remain at the Chancellor's residence. If so, every hack attending should celebrate the spirit of Christmas by taking a kid who will be evicted when Ozzy slashes housing benefit.

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 08 November 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Israel divided