Big beasts and large appetites

Dave, muttered my snout, also normally enjoys a glass or two of claret.

Leaders, like armies, march on their stomachs. David Cameron likes to pop in to the members' dining room for lunch on Wednesdays after Prime Minister's Questions. Whips corral Tory trenchermen on his table to reassure Cameron that he whacked Little Ted out of the ground, particularly when the thin-skinned Premier was well beaten. By all accounts, the meals give sycophancy a bad name. Dave usually orders roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Millions of workers in public services and industry, including transport and construction, are forbidden to drink alcohol during working hours. Not prime ministers (and, in the interests of self-disclosure, political journalists). Dave, muttered my snout, also normally enjoys a glass or two of claret. George Osborne, on an occasion when he joined the backslapping throng, studiously stuck to water. It appears the PM and Chancellor play rival roles of smiley Cavalier and puritan Roundhead in semi-private as well as public.

Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour's feisty leader, had a witty dig at "big beasts, or men as I call them" in her speech to the party's Dundee conference, aimed at Male-minster Scots who think they, not her, will run the Edinburgh anti-devo fight. More pointed was an early draft, in which Lamont declared: "Big beasts, as Douglas Alexander proves, can come in very wee packages." Wee Dougie's sharp elbows are rubbing other Labour people up the wrong way. One, complaining that the Paisley MP's campaigns in 2010 for the general election and David Miliband had failed, noted that, if repeated, the shadow foreign secretary could be visiting a foreign land when he returns to Scotland.

That bear of a man, Richard Harrington, a significant physical presence despite shedding a few stone, should beware Westminster's feministas. The six-foot-something former property developer, who represents Watford, suggested he was fit for one Olympic event: "Possibly for the ladies' shot-put," he opined, "for which I was once told I had an ideal physique." The shot-putting London 2012 gold hopeful Jessica Ennis is unlikely to be described as having the build of a Tory backbencher.

Mr Rebekah Brooks, Cameron's police horse-riding chum Charlie, is familiar with Dave's appetite. The pair were at Eton together and the PM's schoolfriends still call the people's toff "Fat Dave". Hacks who hailed Steve Hilton as his key aide overlooked Gabby Bertin, his Girl Friday. The strike-breaking Scabby Gabby's "bun patrol" to curb Cameron's snacking helps prevent that Fat Dave moniker gaining wider currency.

Chris Leslie, a shadow minister thought to have his finger on the pulse of British yoof as baby of the House when first elected an MP, aged 24, back in 1997, has acquired that outdated way of speaking that infects parliamentarians. He refers to the "interweb", rather than web or net. A colleague speculated that Leslie listens to the wireless in his motor car before arriving home to put a record on the music centre.

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 12 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The weaker sex