Commons Confidential: Parliament’s battle of the bottle

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Giddy MPs poured stiff drinks and needed to sit down over a proposed booze ban. Strait-laced Andrea Leadsom’s pushing for no alcohol to be served in the House of Commons before 6pm. The prim Leader of the House argues prohibition would reduce bullying and improve behaviour. She’s supported by John Bercow, a sober Speaker, but faces a beery brigade backlash. My Tory snout slurred there’d be a stampede to House of Lords bars and dining rooms were daytime imbibing corked in the Commons. Another predicted claret pre-loading before lunch and soaring whisky sales in the gift shop in the afternoon. The bruising battle of the bottle will leave one side nursing a hangover.

Labour frontbenchers are gossiping about YouGov polling on the shadow cabinet. The 96 per cent of the population who’ve heard of Jeremy Corbyn raises questions about where the other 4 per cent spent the past three years. The good news for Diane Abbott is that 82 per cent recognise her, the second-highest profile. The bad news is that the shadow home secretary has the worst net approval (-42). Poor Barry Gardiner’s invisible to 89 per cent. The whispering trade spokesman looks on the bright side, so could translate 11 per cent recognition into five million people. Party poopers point out most of those have a dim view of him.

No love’s lost between DUP MPs and even Tory Brextremists when Ulstermen poke fun at former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers. My informant whispered that the bowler hat brigade insist she asked in Belfast which party the blue in the middle represented when shown a map of parliamentary seats with Sinn Féin’s coloured green and those of the DUP red. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the whole of Ireland.

Trouble at t’ Lib Dem mill with grumblings that Vince Cable didn’t visit the party’s HQ in Westminster’s Great George Street after redundancies were announced. “Insanely poor form,” growled my snout. Is the usually courteous Cable preparing his own departure shortly after Britain leaves the EU?

Tripping over Michael Gove jumping out of his ministerial car, yours truly inquired where he was heading. Farming summit? Meeting with the PM? The Environment Secretary answered that he was buying his morning coffee. “This,” Gove declared, proffering a green reusable cup, “is one promise I’ve kept. Terrible, isn’t it?” Exiting disposable coffee cups would be preferable to Brexit.

Tory Remainer Phillip Lee’s used the services of a PR company since quitting as a justice minister. The Bracknell MP is in what’s called a political spin. 

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 first appeared in the 09 November 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Revenge of the nation state