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19 November 2015

Commons Confidential: Cruel intentions

Robert Halfon's East India Club jaunts, Mark Reckless plans a comeback, and a warning for Alan Yentob.

By Kevin Maguire

Comrade Corbyn has urged shadow cabinet Castros to keep their interventions brief. You can see why: the Labour leader was backed for the top job by just three of its 30 members. My snout inside the party’s parliamentary politburo tells me the brevity edict allows Brother Jeremy to avoid answering questions.

No wonder, when Jezza’s implacable opponents in Westminster are growing increasingly deranged. Aware that Corbyn must lose national elections if his support within the party is to be eroded, one moderate whispered that Blairite cohorts would be prepared to sacrifice Sadiq Khan at next May’s London mayoral contest if it would trigger a regime change.

Hoping the bus driver’s son is beaten by the Tory Zac Goldsmith is the latest counter-revolution by the dispossessed.

Randy Robert Halfon’s trysts with Tory totty are entirely his own private business – even if a bizarre alleged blackmail conspiracy involving a Conservative Party aide who was suspended in May this year has “public interest” stamped all over it. But the choice of hopping into bed at the collar-and-tie, gentlemen-only East India Club in St James’s Square was a risqué choice for an MP meant to be posing as the champion of beer and bingo for the great unwashed.

Riff-raff are kept out of the exclusive club by means of an application form that requires would-be members to send letters “stating fully the position of the candidate socially”. That presumably posed no hurdle for the Essex MP. The exposure leaves, I hear, another Tory minister sweating that his own fling will be aired in the papers.

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The Tory defector Mark Reckless, Ukip’s former MP, is planning a comeback. After losing his Rochester seat last May, he aims to become a member of the Welsh Assembly. The “fat arse”, as David Cameron affectionately called his former colleague, is tipped to lead the Purple Shirts’ top-up list in South-East Wales, where the aptly named Reckless was recently seen loitering with political intent. The corner is easy to reach from London on the M4 and, according to my informant, Ukip fears he would be an unelectable liability standing for a normal constituency seat.

Why did the GMB’s Sir “just call me Paul” Kenny accept a knightood in the lead-up to retirement? “Because,” said a union source, “it would have gone to Usdaw’s John Hannett if he hadn’t.” Rivalry explains everything.

Alan Yentob, Auntie’s £300,000-a-year creative director, should buy a tin helmet. Word is the former chair of Kid’s Company, even more than its chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh, will be in the firing line when the public administration committee completes its inquiry into the charity’s expensive collapse. 

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

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This article appears in the 18 Nov 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The age of terror