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11 November 2015

Commons confidential: A colonel’s poppy policy

“I’ve seen enough men die,” said the Colonel Bob Stewart, “without being told I must show I care on TV.”

By Kevin Maguire

That frenzied sound is of baying Labour hounds, snapping at the League Against Cruel Sports. There is uproar over a new £90,000-a-year chief executive role. The anti-blood-sports pack offered the job to Eduardo Gonçalves, the “conservationist and climate-change campaigner” who, one furry snout squeaked, boasts of his association with James Murdoch, Lord Browne of BP, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Blair (who now, embarrassingly, says that he regrets the hunting ban). The overlooked candidates included the former Labour MP Chris Williamson, a vegan and a League stalwart with a lifetime shooting ban on Derbyshire’s grouse moors after his days as
a hunt saboteur.

Apparently there is a curious omission from Gonçalves’s CV – the reason, I am assured, that so many Labour MPs are yapping about the League shooting itself in the foot. Gonçalves belongs to that endangered species known as the Liberal Democrat. He stood for the yellow peril in Rugby last May, just saving his deposit as the party slipped from third to fourth place. Pursuing Lib Dem quarry is one blood sport that all Labour MPs, from Corbynistas to militant moderates, hugely enjoy.

Colonel Bob Stewart has become the unlikely pin-up of a campaign to halt “poppy fascism”. The former commander of British troops in Bosnia and Northern Ireland was in fighting form after the BBC attempted to force him to wear the crimson symbol two weeks before Remembrance Day. The defence committee member wears his poppy from 1 November. “I’ve seen enough men die,” said the Tory MP, “without being told I must show I care on TV.”

Jeremy Corbyn has few supporters stauncher than Clive Lewis, the 44-year-old Territorial Army Afghanistan veteran and ex-BBC man who won Norwich South in May. Lewis is touted as a future Labour leader, which is perhaps why confused Momentum operatives in East Anglia got the wrong end of the stick. An informant mumbled that there was wild talk of unseating the Corbynista to save Corbyn. Idiocy plus paranoia is a lunatic mix.

There’s sniggering in Downing Street over how it went “over the head” of the Sun editor, Tony Gallagher, “to New York” to blunt the paper’s anti-tax-credit cuts coverage. This could explain why the paper didn’t declare a page-one victory when peers triggered Trustafarian George’s humiliating U-turn.  My free advice to No 10 is: silence the boasting. Gallagher may not forget or forgive.

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Insult added to injury for the 1,700 Redcar steelworkers dumped on the scrapheap? The business minister Anna Soubry was overheard whispering in parliament: “We should’ve mothballed the ovens.” 

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

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This article appears in the 11 Nov 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the threat to Britain