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19 February 2014

Commons Confidential: Strong wind batters No 10

Surely, a farting competition didn't take place right outside the PM's house?

By Kevin Maguire

Guarding the gates of Downing Street is so dull that the armed cops are forced to play silly games to break the boredom. This is why a female member of the No 10 staff, strolling nearby, heard three officers indulging in what I’m assured sounded like a farting competition. Either that, or baked beans should be scrapped from the canteen menu. Andrew Mitchell could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he’d offered to break wind when asked to move to the right with his bicycle.

Tongues were bitten when Cherie Blair announced she has a Chinese sister-in-law. Thoughts turned instantly to the former Mrs Rupert Murdoch, Wendi Deng, a great admirer of Cherie’s hubby and mother of one of Mr Blair’s godchildren. At the Chinese for Labour bash, Cherie was in fact referring to Katy Tse, the Hong Konger wife of Tony’s brother, Bill. You’ve got to admire Cherie’s chutzpah. Or lack of self-awareness.

Jokes about the lovestruck Wendi’s mooning (“Oh, sh*t, oh, sh*t. Whatever why I’m so missing Tony … He has such good body and he has really really good legs Butt … And he is slim tall”) are compulsory on the Labour fundraising circuit under the party’s unofficial constitution. The shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith, MCing a London gig for the Cardiff candidates Jo Stevens and Mari Williams, quipped: “There’s been a terrible misunderstanding – Wendi was writing about me, not Tony.” In your dreams, son.

The banker Kwasi Kwarteng, one of Dave’s brigade of Old Etonians, often goes AWOL when the work and pensions committee grills a Tory minister. The Spelthorne MP dodged Lord Freud after skipping Iain Duncan Smith the previous week. While colleagues interrogated IDS, Kwarteng was spied sipping coffee in Portcullis House a floor below. Dock that MP’s pay for failing to turn up for interviews.

Work started during the Commons recess to convert the members’ centre in Portcullis into a members’ lounge. The computers and desks are to be replaced by easy chairs and sofas, so that MPs can entertain guests in private instead of sitting at tables in public. Lobbyists should form an orderly queue.

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There’s been griping in the members’ tearoom over a large neon sign advertising opening times and the like. My snout overheard a table of Tory MPs moaning that it “commercialised” the tea-and-crumpets bolt-hole. Isn’t that what right-whingers want to do to public services?

Flood woes left Ed Miliband out of his depth as water lapped over the top of his wellies and Nigel Farage forced a smile in his waders. The rubber trousers leaked; the Ukip leader was as wet as any mainstream politician.

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