How the Buller Boy was brought to book

I hope Osborne: the Book isn't all Laffer and no laughs.

Chatter about the leadership intentions of George Osborne is rising several decibels. The must-have accessory for ambitious politicians is a biographer. And the Chancer of the Exchequer, I hear, has acquired a scribe. Joey Jones, Sky News's deputy political editor, is to chronicle the life and times of the Trust Fund Tory. Given that the Chancellor's a spotty 39-year-old, yet to toil in the Treasury a full year, a slim volume would suffice.

The lofty Buller Boy, muttered my snout, believes he deserves a more substantial tome. So George is co-operating. I hope Osborne: the Book isn't all Laffer and no laughs. After all, Cameron's Old Etonians nicknamed George "Oik" in the Buller, and then there's that photograph with an arm around a prostitute in front of a line of white powder. Cameron, by the way, may be worried by the frequency with which the self-aggrandiser entertains friendly hacks at Dorneywood. He's a busy boy, is our George.

The Scottish MP Thomas Docherty is earning himself an unpopular reputation among Labour comrades. Insisting the police analyse CCTV film to identify two trade unionists who allegedly swiped his half-drunk bottle of wine from Strangers' wasn't a first offence. Docherty, who since he began his short spell in the House has criticised jeans-wearing women MPs and proposed a statue of Tony Blair, had security question a man and woman with a baby in the cafeteria. A parliamentary sister didn't take kindly to Docherty setting the police on her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild. The hapless new boy from Dunfermline is being referred to as the school sneak.

Every MP was invited to a TUC reception sponsored by Grahame Morris, County Durham lefty, in a Commons dining room a couple of days before the March for the Alternative. This column's informant with the maths GCSE counted 50 Labourites. A sole Liberal Democrat, Southport's John Pugh, was spied. And the Conservatives? The Tories weren't in it at all.

To Bishop Auckland for the local Labour party's annual shindig. The Treasury mandarin-turned-local-MP, Helen Goodman, should propose a men's quota, as the old mining constituency is dominated these days by feisty women. During the raffle, a lucky ticketholder departed clutching a fine bottle of GMB whisky with the union's logo on the label. The GMB contingent was curiously unamused when your correspondent inquired if it was from a distillery organised by Unite.

How history is made: the west London MP Andrew Slaughter told Hammersmith Rotarians the real reason he is shadow justice minister and Ed Miliband is Labour leader. In Hamburg with his Ealing neighbour Stephen Pound to watch Fulham in last season's Europa Cup final (they lost), both got calls from Mili Minor. During the same trip, the duo were rung not by David Miliband, but by an MP acting on his behalf. The personal touch scored and the pair backed Mili Minor. Had Mili Major climbed down from his ivory tower to deign to speak to a few MPs, he'd probably be leader. Incredible but 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 04 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Who are the English?

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.