Ooh, look at your barnet: Dave meets Babs at No 10, 30 October. Photo: Getty
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Commons Confidential: Dave’s secret barnet formula

Cameron is paranoid his spreading bald spot will be photographed from above.

Claire Perry yearned for a red box but the rail minister hit the buffers as an MP. My eye was drawn to a curious exchange between the statuesque controller and Labour’s Kevin Brennan. A few days before her appointment, Perry wrote to her now predecessor, Stephen Hammond, to demand that electrification of the railways must not mean that London trains would no longer stop at Bedwyn and Pewsey stations in her Devizes backyard. Brennan asked cheekily if Perry received a reply from herself. The derailed minister cited “ministerial propriety” before explaining she could no longer campaign publicly to make line upgrades conditional on her two stations’ inclusion.

Selsdon Man is making a comeback. The Selsdon Park Hotel, made politically infamous by hosting Ted Heath’s turbo capitalists, is to host fundraising dinners for the Croydon Central Tory MP, Gavin Barwell, and the Thatcherite multimillionaire, Chris Philp, who hopes to inherit Croydon South from the retiring Richard Ottaway. The pair have established a £400-membership-fee Croydon Business Club. On the menu at the inaugural, invitation-only bash in the hotel, the Selsdon Men will serve up the developer behind the new £1bn Westfield shopping centre in the south London borough.

There’s more than one way to get through Downing Street’s black door. Cameron’s little helper Oliver Dowden, overlooked when Croydon South preferred moneybags Philp, resigned as deputy chief of staff following his selection as the Tory candidate in equally safe Hertsmere. These days, Dowden is in and out of the place working for Conservative campaign headquarters. New wage slip, same old politics.

David Cameron’s ego took a knock when a receptionist turned him away unrecognised from a Toni & Guy salon in Aylesbury, half a dozen miles from Chequers, after Sam Cam sent him to get their son’s hair cut. I hear from his No 10 minders that Cameron is paranoid his spreading bald spot will be photographed from above. The barnet formula obsessing No 10 is the industrial quantities of men’s hair products required to maintain an elaborate cover-up. The PM’s £90 celebrity crimper, Lino Carbosiero, was controversially awarded an MBE. The most recent previous Old Etonian premier, Alec Douglas-Home, was also the last baldie. It’s a school tradition that Combover Cameron’s unable to brush off.

Pre-election resentment in the Labour ranks. One of the party’s deadpan MPs insisted to your correspondent that Miliband’s office is known as the Parachute Regiment. Why? “They all want to be dropped into safe seats.” 

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 06 November 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Running out of Time

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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