Tommy goes to Hollywood

Muchas gracias to the snout who forwarded me the wheelchair user Sean McGovern's unexpurgated account of his confrontation with Iain Duncan Smith, after finding the benefit cutter blocking a disabled toilet at a Channel 4 studio. McGovern, a London-based disability rights campaigner, who'd endured the cabinet minister lecturing the nation on personal responsibility at a TV debate on rioting, demanded of IDS: "Why are you abusing this facility? I've had to wait in extreme pain and discomfort, because you think you're above the rules that everyone else accepts!" The Quiet Man whimpered: "I'm sorry - but someone told me I could use it."

The humiliation of IDS didn't end when McGovern manoeuvred his chair to let the red-faced minister through the door. If anything, that was the start. I'll let McGovern record how he turned up the volume of his protest: "Just as he thought he'd escaped the loony wheelie,
I looked into the bowl and spotted he hadn't flushed the loo. 'Oi!' I shouted, arresting IDS's flight. 'Do you know it's customary to flush the khazi after use?' I can still picture his look - a mixture of abject contempt and 'Beam me up, Scotty' - as he drew an embarrassed grin across his Chevy, while abruptly turning a corner to the safety of the street."

First, a book and then, perhaps, Hacked Off: the Movie? I hear that a film-maker has approached Tommy "Two Dinners" Watson, parliamentary nemesis of the Murdochs, to turn the Fleet Street scandal into an X-rated motion picture. Watson has signed a deal with Penguin to write his story with the Independent scribbler Martin Hickman. I'd suggest that only a substantial actor, in the mould of a Robbie Coltrane or a Jack Black, could do justice to Two Dinners on the big screen. Now the Harry Potter franchise is at a cinematic end, Daniel Radcliffe may be free to play the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger.

The schoolboy smut in the big-screen version of The Inbetweeners will fail to shock Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West and a Labour health spokeswoman. I'm told that she steps out with Mr Gilbert, the sadistic sixth-form head played by the thespian Greg Davies. The long and the short of the relationship is that he's a towering six foot eight inches; she's a prim five foot five.

Unsprinkled by stardust is Ed Miliband, although I gather that an air stewardess once mistook him for the US comic Ray Romano of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Less flattering for the Labour leader was an encounter with a guest at this summer's union of the Guardian correspondent Allegra Stratton and the Spectator writer James Forsyth. Anonymous Ed, said a fellow guest at the nuptials, was mistaken for a wine waiter.

Going neither up nor down was Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, who was stuck for an hour in the lift of a Bromley tower block until she was rescued by firefighters. No wonder most MPs prefer the beach to canvassing constituents in August.

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 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Gold

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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.