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  1. Politics
4 November 2013

Commons Confidential: Campbell gets souped up

PLUS: Eric Joyce vs Jim Sheridan.

By Kevin Maguire

Major Eric Joyce the Torybeater is in trouble again, this time for unparliamentary manoeuvres against Scottish Labour’s Jim Sheridan. Joyce was witnessed in the “No” lobby issuing a high-decibel “Let’s go outside for a chat” invitation as he pushed his face, eyes reportedly bulging, into the face of the older man.

Sheridan, 60, declined and as he departed Joyce yelled uncomradely greetings banned on the floor of the chamber. Sheridan reported Joyce, who was previously fined £3,000 and handed a 12-month community order after headbutting and punching Conservative MPs in Strangers’ Bar, to the Serjeant at Arms. Sheridan is seeking to have Joyce banned from the Houses of Parliament on health and safety grounds until he undergoes counselling.

The explosion was triggered by Sheridan, chair of the Unite MPs, telling Joyce he was wrong to hold the union solely responsible for the Grangemouth refinery row. Joyce, who blames Unite for ousting him in Falkirk, evidently thought otherwise.

Gateshead’s Ian Mearns is a handy man in a crisis. The Geordie Labourite remembered his first aid when an elderly man collapsed on the upper committee corridor. Mearns put the unfortunate chap into the recovery position to await the nurse. He stayed cool when a visitor shrieked that the bloke’s hand was deadly cold and there was no pulse. Trained to deal with emergencies, eagle-eyed Mearns spotted that it was a prosthetic limb.

Political hacks on the popular newspapers went nuclear when the Sir Humphrey at the Energy Department, Stephen Lovegrove, invited only former broadsheets with low circulations to question his minister, Ed Davey, on EDF’s money-spinning Hinkley deal. When asked by a colleague of mine at the Mirror, the John Le Mesurier-like Jason Beattie, why no tabloid lobby reporter had been called to the press conference, Lovegrove gave a response that was classic Whitehall farce material.

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“I don’t know you,” he said disdainfully, “from a bar of soap.” Lofty Lovegrove sounds ripe for promotion to the diplomatic service.

Therese Coffey, bag carrier to the biz minister, Michael Fallon, has reached the end of the road. Or, more accurately, her beloved, British-built Toyota Avensis has. The broken motor with 210,000 miles on the clock is marooned beyond economical repair in parliament’s underground garage. It’s not only MPs that are clapped out in Westminster.

The corporate PR and professional self-publicist Alastair Campbell is unsettling Ed Miliband’s inner circle by informing any news outlet that will listen that he, Tony Blair’s former weapon of mass disinformation, will play a prominent Labour role in the election. Milibites fear Campbell will make it all about himself in 2015. I think they can bet on that.

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

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