Stranger danger for Dave
So many Tory MPs tried to buy Fox a drink in the Strangers' Bar that Cameron should be worried.
The privatisation of Northern Rock, gift-wrapped by George Osborne as an early Christmas present for the billionaire beardie Richard Branson, cost the bank at least one customer. Ronnie Campbell, gnarled Northumberland lefty, closed the account he opened when the crumbling Rock was nationalised. "It's no longer the People's Bank," bemoaned Bolshie of Blyth Valley. "I saw this coming under my own party, so put the £5,000 back into the TSB." Campbell was directed as a young miner by the then National Coal Board to entrust the TSB with his money. It's now part of the Lloyds Banking Group and, as such, 43.4 per cent publicly owned. By my calculation, that means some £2,170 of Ronnie's savings are in state hands.
Leaving the cabinet has some compensations for Liam Fox. For instance, since his return to the back benches, he's free to imbibe a beverage without enemies raising an eyebrow. My snout whispered so many Tory MPs tried to buy Fox a drink in the Strangers' Bar that Cameron, who sips a glass of claret in the Members' Dining Room most Wednesday lunchtimes after PMQs, should be worried. Now, Fox has time to meet rebellious Tories as well as Mr Werritty.
The doughty Bishop Auckland MP, Helen Goodman, is prepared to leave no stone unturned to stop the Boundary Commission intruding on
her County Durham fiefdom. Quoting a local farmer in the North Pennines, she declared that inhabitants of his valley believed neighbouring communities "eat their bairns" during bad winters so could never be members of the same seat. Suspected cannibalism is the best excuse I've heard to date against constituency jiggery-pokery.
Patrick Diamond, ultra-Blairite, is giving long odds on Ed Miliband making it to Downing Street. Flap-eared informants mumble that Diamond is no fan of the leader, complaining that polling in south-east England shows voters don't trust Little Ed because they think "he has no integrity" for stabbing his brother in the back. The knifing was in the front, I recall, and the findings are convenient for rough Diamond, who keeps a candle burning for his lost leader, David Milibrother.
MPs writing letters of condolence to the families of dead constituents are supplied with black-bordered notepaper embossed with the Portcullis logo. A thoughtful touch I thought worthy of a mention in this column, which usually dwells on what politicians do wrong, not right.
The ink was barely dry on last week's page before speculation over the identity of the hacked-off media boss poised to embrace parenthood triggered a statement on behalf of Rebekah Brooks. The word on the street is that her representatives have muttered the words "legal" and "action", should the surrogate be revealed, asserting that it would breach privacy all round. Your correspondent shall refrain from naming the birth mother. Or the clinic. Rather I'll enjoy the irony of Brooks demanding rights she denied others.