Don’t mention the Oscars

Double-Oscar winner Glenda Jackson is notorious for her irritation when MPs quiz her about her past.

The imperious Glenda Jackson, a 24-carat thespian in a house of amateur actors, is said by a fellow parliamentarian to have used one of her Academy Awards to keep open a door. Hampstead's double-Oscar-winner is notorious for her irritation when MPs quiz her about an earlier life as queen of England. So Oliver Heald, an amiable enough member of the Tory squirearchy, escaped lightly when he attempted to ingratiate himself with her during a break on the work and pensions committee. My snout muttered that Jackson sounded as if she would have preferred to discuss poverty traps when Heald raised past performances. Her finest response, I hear, was to a question about whether starring on stage and screen had helped Jackson master the theatre of the absurd that is the Commons chamber. Jackson replied testily that an ability to remember the lines of a film or play wasn't necessary to deliver a five-minute speech from the back benches. Elizabeth R would have said: "Orf with his head."

Kenneth Clarke's refusal to join the Tory bashing of the European Court of Human Rights over Abu Qatada's blocked deportation may land the Justice Secretary with a one-way ticket to the Middle East. David Cameron's mouthpiece Gabby Bertin, a spinner so committed to kicking undesirables out of Britain that she volunteered to work as a Heathrow immigration officer during last November's strike, came up with a draconian solution. Clarke, Scabby Gabby told a press pack, should be sent to Syria. The schoolmistressy Bertin, I understand, later insisted it was a joke. Quite so. Perhaps she thinks the Syrian people have suffered enough under President Assad.

Labour's leadership swallowing Con-Dem wage cuts for dinner ladies et al has triggered a sacking. The shadow Treasury chief secretary, Rachel Reeves, has dispensed with the services of her bag carrier, the County Durham lefty Grahame Morris. The staunch trade unionist was on a yellow card for previously refusing to cross a civil service picket line outside the Palace of Westminster. Reeves, prominent in Lord Sainsbury's über-modernising Progress tendency, showed Morris the red for opposing the pay policy. Comrades of the former lab technician mumbled, in true Tony Benn style, that Morris is looking forward to devoting more time to politics.

The octogenarian Beast of Bolsover received hundreds of messages of support after Cameron labelled him a dinosaur, including a letter from a Northamptonshire vicar accusing the PM of lying. The PM has made Dennis Skinner as popular as he's ever been.

Spied in Labour HQ before appearing on Question Time was one Alastair Campbell. Not as intriguing, I grant you, as a sighting a few months back on a flight from Kazakhstan when the Financial Times discovered Tony Blair's old hitman doing consultancy work in the oil-rich former Soviet state with a dodgy human rights record. Mildly interesting, though, if a former spinner needs briefing these days before going on the telly. How the mighty fall.

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 20 February 2012 issue of the New Statesman, How do we stop Iran getting the bomb?