Commons Confidential: Mystery beast stalks Twitter

Plus: mastication continues to gnaw away at Ed Miliband.

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In the Battle for Scotland, the Labour MPs herded north of the border in rail carriages to save 41 seats in the great referendum smacked of Lenin in his sealed train returning to Russia for a final push. My snout whispered that “volunteers” had been instructed to talk quietly to avoid being overheard by the likes of me and warned not to drink alcohol excessively. Not that every Labour MP had been invited. Frank Field sniffed that he’d been left behind because he backs independence for Scotland and the whips didn’t want him hitching a free ride to campaign for a Yes vote. My snout grumbled that a show of hands would have found a majority of Labour MPs in favour of a one-way ticket to Glasgow for Frankie McField.

I hate to spoil a good joke but @BolsoverBeast on Twitter is not Dennis Skinner. Half of the Parliamentary Labour Party believes the account – with 25,700 followers the last time I looked – is the Beast of Bolsover’s. In fact, it’s a clever spoof of the Labour veteran. Skinner confirms it’s not him in his memoirs, Sailing Close to the Wind, and explains that the Labour frontbencher Catherine McKinnell took some convincing that he wasn’t the tweeter. If not Skinner, who is @BolsoverBeast?

Mastication continues to gnaw away at Ed Miliband. Jokes about his losing struggle with a sarnie are a staple in the speeches diet. The TUC president, Mohammad Taj, cut it both ways. “Don’t worry,” the Bradford bus driver told him. “I’m the first Muslim president of the TUC, so I won’t make you eat a bacon sandwich.” Taj is a negotiator who knows which side his bread is buttered on.

At the Labour conference in Manchester, there’ll be a battle of the parties on 23 September. The Sun is throwing a bash at the same time as the Mirror’s hot ticket (declaration of interest below) on the old Coronation Street set, where the paper’s editor, Peter Willis, will pull pints in the Rovers Return. Miliband is expected at the Mirror extravaganza. Liverpool Labour MPs will be waiting, should he pop into the Sun’s, after that photo with a promotional copy.

I bumped into members of a Lebanese TV crew who recounted how, a few years ago, they stopped a politician they only vaguely recognised outside Westminster Abbey. After the interview, the reporter asked, “Could I have your name, please?” He replied: “I’ve been in parliament 50 years and you don’t know who I am?” The interviewee left without revealing his identity. Tony Benn had many qualities but humility wasn’t among them.

Spare a thought for the Wall Street Journal scribe forced to stay in a youth hostel because the referendum filled overpriced Scottish hotels. Democracy and capitalism are uncomfortable bedfellows. 

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 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Scotland: What Next?