Jack Straw image by Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: Jack’s Turkish delight moment

The former home secretary and Blackburn fan spotted in the Commons gym in a Galatsaray strip.

A squirming Odd Ed pleaded not guilty on the premises of the Guardian to a weirdo charge the rag ungraciously plastered on its G2 cover the morning he visited the newspaper. But the freaky accusation is preferable to being called a loser in party meetings. Unite’s Len McCluskey was the star turn at an election fundraiser in Gateshead’s civic centre. The first question was from a postal worker. “When,” he asked, “are we going to get shot of Ed Miliband?” Red Len gave Red Ed more support, whispered my snout, than Red Ed showed Red Len when the Labour leader reported two prominent union members to the police over the Falkirk selection row. The cop move, I’m told, is behind Unite’s threat to fund a new workers’ party.

Weird lot, those Kippers. They bang on about how bad immigration is then court the very people they demonise. Labour’s Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Mark Hendrick had spoken to a Hindu Council gathering in the Commons when a holder of the hitherto unknown office of “honorary MP” was summoned. It was Suzanne Evans, a Tory defector to Ukip on south London’s Merton Council who glories in the Faragist oxymoron of national communities spokesman. The billing smacked of hubris, pride coming before a Ukip fall.

One-time culture vulture Ben Bradshaw thinks Labour is dangerously anti-business. The backbencher, who keeps a candle burning for Tony Blair, urged a meeting of Westminster colleagues to turn down the heat on energy firms. When the treatment of the disabled jobless came up, the tribune of Middle England apparently opined: “They will always vote for us.” Taking people for granted is a mistake. Blair lost four million Labour voters between 1997 and 2005, before Gordon Brown misplaced another 0.9 million in 2010.

The shy and retiring Nadine “I Want to Be a Celebrity” Dorries appears to be a new woman, rejuvenated by the earnings of minor fame. The fresh-faced Tory’s first novel is out. She has history when it comes to telling stories. She claimed her blog was “70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent fact” when under scrutiny over expenses claims. Maria Miller could have no better champion.

Grumbling MPs play “juxtaposition bingo” during Douglas Alexander’s speeches. Labour’s election chief loves a verbal contrast. Points are awarded for “We don’t want anger, we need answers” or “We can’t be a party of protest, we must be a party of power”.

Jack Straw, a Blackburn fan, was spied in the Commons gym in a Galatasaray football shirt with his name on the back. My spy was unable to sneak a picture so it isn’tonly Turks who won’t see him online.

Kevin Maguire is the 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 09 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Anxiety nation

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.