Commons Confidential: Yes, purr minister

And will it soon be Polly Toynbee, MP?

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Banged up in a cell for up to 23 hours a day, the jailbird ex-MP Denis MacShane scribbled notes. Lots of notes. He walked through the gates with 400 handwritten pages on his release six weeks in to a six-month sentence for expenses fraud. The inevitable book will follow. Incarcerating MacShane in the high-security Belmarsh suggests the authorities misinterpreted his “Denis the Menace” monicker, earned for his ability to cause and fall into political trouble, rather than breaking the bones of rivals. During his spell inside, he encountered the Soho nail bomber (“really weird”) and armed robbers. “How much have you got stashed away for when you get out?” MacShameless asked a hardened bank raider. I’m told the old lag replied: “A lot of people ask that, Denis. The answer is £2m, although Securicor don’t know that yet.”

Fur flew in a “Purr Minister” Westminster pussy contest when the Labour MP Andrew Gwynne claimed that vote-rigging was fixing the result for Bosun, the Tory MP Sheryll Murray’s cat. Grumbling Gwynne smelled an automated voting rat after Bosun clawed in 30,000 votes overnight at the rate of 50 per second. He withdrew Jude the moggy in protest and the organiser, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, launched an inquiry which, at the time of writing, was ongoing. Your correspondent’s eye was caught by the feline entry of the Labour MP Bill Esterson: Kevin. A cat called Kevin? Whatever next?

The prominent Lib Dem Danny Alexander hopes to get inside Ed Miliband’s head as the ConDem coalition disintegrates. The Treasury bean-counter is reading What Money Can’t Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel. The Harvard professor was dubbed a Miliband guru after tutoring the party’s 2012 conference. Alexander, pretending he doesn’t know his good friend George Osborne and suddenly praising Ed Balls, may be disappointed by Sandel’s observation: “If you don’t have as many friends as you would like it might occur to you to try to buy some. But you would quickly realise it might not work.”

Fat fingers resulted in your correspondent understating by a factor of ten the £473.75 municipal monthly stipend of the Eastleigh councillor-cum-MP Mike “Two Jobs” Thornton on top of his £66,396 parliamentary salary. The borough payment, shouted a colleague of his, is donated to charity. He didn’t say if Thornton polishes his halo every night before bed.

Polly Toynbee, spied canvassing in Camden for the Labour Party, sparked speculation she may wish to become an MP. My £1.60 says that’s nonsense, but I’ve held the Guardianista in high regard since Toynbee joined the pantheon of lefties who rejected honours, declining an invitation to become Dame Polly.

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

Montage: Dan Murrell

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 13 February 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Can we talk about climate change now?

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