Commons Confidential: Corbyn's game of thrones

Corbyn will be anxious about scheming Labour MPs plotting to flush his leadership down the toilet.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Jeremy Corbyn’s absence from Andrew Marr’s sofa, followed by his long, silent trudge as a Sky News reporter shouted questions, are evidence he is struggling to adapt to intense media interest after three decades of being largely ignored. Broadcasters complain about interviews cancelled at short notice or the red leader rolling up late, seemingly unconcerned that live programmes are transmitted at the appointed hours. BBC hacks shudder as they recall the occasion when Comrade Corbyn, then still a candidate, retreated to the privacy of a lavatory cubicle one morning and the unlucky journalist with the unenviable task of hammering on the door to coax him out was greeted with a disobliging grunt. Corbyn will be more anxious about scheming Labour MPs plotting to flush his leadership down the toilet.

The appointment of a brother-in-arms as shadow chancellor exposed an essential truth behind a joke cracked often at public meetings by John McDonnell, the leader’s agent in the spectacular four-month march to the top job. McDonnell, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, would quip: “I told my wife that Jeremy’s my best friend in parliament. She said, ‘Hold on a minute, he’s your only friend.’”

The number of Corbynistas who advised privately against McDonnell’s installation on the grounds that he’s considered factional suggests the shadow chancellor was on the money all along.

Brrrng, brrrng. Make what you will of this telephone inquiry from a BBC Essex reporter to Phil Watson, chair of Open Morris, a body representing ye olde English folk dancers with bells and sticks who frolic outside pubs and at village fetes. BBC reporter: “Is Jeremy Corbyn a morris dancer?” Watson: “No. Why do you ask?” BBC reporter: “Well, he looks like one. He’s got a beard.” For the record, Corbyn isn’t a morris man. But Watson, a card-carrying Tory, extended an invitation to dress up should this leadership malarkey go down the Swanee.

Every prominent leader earns a biography, and the Daily Telegraph’s Rosa Prince is to speed-write Corbyn’s unofficial story. Had another leader emerged, Prince would be typing away about Yvette Cooper. The Observer’s Daniel Boffey can rest easy, now that a book on Andy Burnham isn’t required. Liz Kendall? Never thought worth more than a tweet.

The pernickety Labour peer Lord Myners amuses drinkers when he rings to book a table at his local hostelry in Cornwall. Leaves nothing to chance, does the former Treasury minister and chair of the Guardian Media Group. My snout sniggered that Myners’s details are confirmed thus: “It’s Lord Myners. That’s L-O-R-D . . .” What other spelling could be used? P-O-M-P-O-U-S.

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

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 17 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn's Civil War