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14 January 2016

Commons confidential: Poor Momentum

A momentous confusion, the case of Michael "Dagger" Dugher - and Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton?

By Kevin Maguire

Spare a thought for Momentum. Not the grass-roots Corbynista movement, though it’s more sinned against than sinning when Brother Jeremy’s enemies mischievously exaggerate the ramshackle collective’s clout as a stick with which to beat him. No, the Momentum deserving of sympathy is the charity of the same name, which existed long before the upstart was no more than a twinkle in a leftist’s eye.

Based in south-west London, this Momentum does terrific work supporting children with cancer and life-limiting conditions. This Momentum is nervous that the public will muddle it with the political group and stop dropping money in its collection boxes.

One confused school rang the charity’s office in Kingston-upon-Thames to check that it wasn’t a wing of the Corbynista revolution before selecting the fund as its pupils’ cause of the year. The charity is toying with a public statement to emphasise its independence and prevent the confusion gathering, er, momentum. Would it be better all round if the impostor just changed its own name to protect a small, admirable charity?

Arise, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton? Tories in the tearoom, gurgled a snout, are speculating over what title or honour the Prime Minister will demand when he retires (or is forced out, should his side lose the EU referendum). The consensus among Conservative MPs, I’m informed, is that Cameron will abandon Witney at the 2020 election and, unlike his Labour predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, who eschewed establishment baubles, depart the House of Commons with a bauble. The division is over whether he will take a knighthood or a peerage. “Sir David” guarantees good tables in restaurants without the baggage of Lord Cam – peers are obliged to register financial interests. I’ll keep my ear to the table.

The Labour rescuffle’s noisiest victim was Michael “Dagger” Dugher, Barnsley’s streetwise former Downing Street spinner, who refused to go quietly after his sacking for suspected disloyalty. The leader’s office claimed it knew when Dagger, as Corbynistas pointedly call their critic, briefed against them. Curses in unsourced quotes attacking Jezza supposedly blew his cover.

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One telling moment from the floods illustrated how the Tory machine is befriending Labour figures while Labour itself splutters ineffectually. The Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, called Lindsay Hoyle to inquire what his patch needed after Chorley was swamped. The result was 2,000 extra sandbags, dropped by Chinook. Hoyle, a Commons deputy speaker, heard not a peep from Truss’s shadow, Kerry McCarthy. An oversight, I’m sure. 

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

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This article appears in the 13 Jan 2016 issue of the New Statesman, David Bowie