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5 January 2017updated 06 Jan 2017 10:31am

Commons confidential: “Hi, it’s me”

This week's best gossip in Westminster – from mice to brass bands.

By Kevin Maguire

When the Brexit elite’s Nigel Farage isn’t yearning for an establishment knighthood (much to his chagrin, he still isn’t Sir Nige after the New Year Honours list), the purple rager rants that Ukip’s sole MP, Douglas Carswell, shouldn’t be in the party. Perhaps it’s jealousy, given that Farage ran for parliament and lost seven times – a perfect record of Westminster rejection.

Yet little bits of evidence continue to build a case suggesting that Farage may one day be able to boast that Ukip has no MPs. Carswell’s office across the road from Clacton Station displayed the Ukip slogan and purple colour during the May 2015 election. My snout whispers that the wonky-jawed MP has moved to new premises, and gone from the sign is the party’s name and hue. Carswell could be forgiven if he contemplated defecting back to the Tories.

Best-laid plans and all that during the parliamentary recess as Labour’s Michael Dugher took Stephen Tompkinson back to Grimethorpe, where the actor made his breakthrough in Brassed Off, the gritty, 1996 comedy about a Yorkshire colliery brass band’s struggles after the pit shut.

As they sought entry into the local working men’s club for a refreshing pint, the ex-miner collecting £1 a head on the door suspiciously eyed Dugher, Tompkinson and a Daily Mirror reporter, and then growled: “Now then, how many of you f***ers are there?” Oop north, that’s a warm welcome.

There is a better class of dresser in the House of Lords, where the Labour dreadnought Alan West, a former first sea lord, is suitably shipshape. The Royal Navy veteran’s dinner jacket with skull and crossbones lining is, I am assured, a sight for sore eyes. Strolling through Mayfair in a three-piece suit and bowler hat, Baron West of Spithead was hailed by a woman driver who pulled over on spotting his headgear. She introduced herself as the editor of a magazine called the Hat, and said she was anxious to feature the bowlered peer. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party remains a broad clothes rail.

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Paranoid Corbynistas claim they are rarely invited on to TV or radio. Yet a broadcaster detailed numerous invitations rejected by Diane Abbott. Labour’s shadow home secretary at least declines with a touch of humour. On one occasion she included a crying emoji in her refusal.

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Rodents populate the Lords as much as the Commons. The leader of Labour’s peers, Angela Smith, head of the opposition, found a mouse hiding in one of her running shoes. Maybe that’s what they call vermin in ermine.

Alastair Campbell tells how Tony Blair rings and introduces himself: “Hi, it’s me.” I suppose the day he has to use his own name, he will be history.

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

This article appears in the 04 Jan 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain