Creases in the coalition

Cameron's "dinosaur" gibe at Dennis Skinner continues to rumble.

The job of the small man in the big chair, John Bercow, matchbox-sized Speaker of the House of Commons, may be safe after a rapprochement with one of his bitterest critics.

This time last year, Mark Pritchard, a troublemaker on the Conservative 1922 Committee, was growling at the Speaker. The pair exchanged verbal fisticuffs after Bercow accused the backbencher of gross discourtesy when Pritchard, according to witnesses, barked, "You're not fucking royalty!" in a spat over who had precedence in a corridor. That was in January 2011. This January, during a reception in Speaker's House, Pritchard was overheard admitting: "John has become a champion of backbenchers and I pay him tribute for that." A gracious compliment suggesting that Bercow is secure in the chair.

Cameron's "dinosaur" gibe at Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover, continues to rumble. The latest criticism is from Nadine Dorries, a Tory MP Dave the Sexist once dismissed as "extremely frustrated" before apologising by text. Dorries was overheard telling colleagues that she was "totally and utterly disgusted" at her leader's "unstatesmanlike abuse" and how she'd wanted "to go over and give poor Dennis a cuddle". I suspect that the Derbyshire ex-miner Skinnosaurus would find it easier to cope with abuse from an Old Etonian than an embrace from a Scouse Tory former nurse, though I'd love to see that theory put to the test.

Pritchard, I hear, gave a "full Christian burial", including prayers, to Dillon, one of his two miniature Schnauzers. The Wrekin MP's love of
animals got him into trouble when he defied No 10 bullying, and the bribe of a potential government post, and secured a ban on circus animals.

Politicians are a tough lot but Pritchard's friends say that he's heartbroken at the loss of Dillon, a dog that showed even a hardbitten MP is human.

The list lengthens of chap MPs using the male ironing board in a room near the Commons hairdressing salon. Cameron's bag carrier, Major Desmond Swayne, is a regular after his daily dip in the Serpentine. Unlike his boss, who can't iron out creases in an increasingly fractious coalition.

Rail union merger talks between RMT and TSSA hit the buffers over Bob Crow-bar backing anti-Labour candidates. Ed Miliband will be relieved that TSSA booking clerks are loyal to Labour. The bad news is that they might join Comrade "Red" Len McCluskey's Unite.

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 30 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, President Newt