Commons Confidential: lunching with losers

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Dazed and angry Tory survivors are swapping tales of colleagues who never made it back to parliament, cut down by reckless Theresa May’s friendly fire. Top of the blue-on-blue casualty list is the loyalist Jason McCartney, who lost Colne Valley by 915 votes to Labour’s retired teacher Thelma Walker.

The former RAF officer boasted of his fight to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. He marched, spoke at meetings, held a debate in the Commons and even raised the threat at Prime Minister’s Questions. So McCartney’s molten fury was understandable when hapless May tipped up in West Yorkshire to denounce “scaremongering” about NHS cuts. Tory colleagues whimper that he privately blames May’s ignorance for his defeat. Her supposed mastery of detail was as overspun as the competency.

While May was destroying the Tories, the Jezza bounce boosted Labour MPs who failed to topple him. The majority jumped 13.4 per cent to 14,477 in Stockport for Ann Coffey, who, with Margaret Hodge (up 10.1 per cent to 21,608 in Barking), tabled last summer’s no-confidence vote. Coffey surprised a young constituent enthused by the Elderly Comrade, I hear, dismissing an unaffordable manifesto, slating Corbyn and predicting a May win. The bemused lad still voted Labour.

How ironic that the fate of the vanquished blue prince Ben “Son of John” Gummer was sealed by an absence of high-profile visits to Ipswich. He basked in the title of most powerful minister we had never heard of. My Suffolk snout reports miffed locals felt unloved by Tories they had heard of as they returned Gummer, Jr to deserved obscurity and impotence.

The Brexit Action Man David Davis is on manoeuvres at home and abroad, with the SAS reservist tipped as bumptious Boris Johnson’s broken-nosed rival for the May Queen’s crown. Davis marches on his stomach, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a Westminster restaurant only days before the election. DD wasn’t alone in believing a thumping Tory victory was on a plate.

Over at the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre the Queen-maker prepared a triumphant Union Jack front page with the headline, “Now let’s get on with Brexit”. The 10pm exit poll saw the splash spiked at 10.02. Dacre departed the office shortly afterwards.

Bad news is good news for George Osborne. The Tory avenger informed ITV that he would leave the election-night show by 3am for a kip before editing London’s freesheet. Osborne asked to stay on with Ed Balls when he realised May was flopping. This is personal, not political.

Asked on the stump if he would return to British politics, David Miliband was overheard replying, “Only if I’m wanted.” That’s a no, then.

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 appears in the 15 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn: revenge of the rebel

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