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9 October 2014

Commons Confidential: The Lib Dem red rodent peril

Ministerial colleagues accused Danny Alexander of treating those he considers his inferiors with contempt.

By Kevin Maguire

That committed conservative, Lynton Crosby, and a not-so-staunch Jim Messina make an unlikely Tory election pairing now that David Cameron is running a second British Tea Party to compete with Nigel Farage’s Ukip Purple Shirts. Crosby, an Australian attack dingo, revels in fighting on old Tory territory, but Messina, who was hired from the Democrats’ campaign for Barack Obama, appears bemused. When I bumped into the pair, Crosby introduced me to Messina with: “He’s a lefty.” When I pointed to Messina and replied, “He used to be a lefty,” Crosby answered, “He still is.” Messina didn’t respond. At least he turned up at the Tory conference. David Axelrod, Labour’s Democratic signing, was notably absent from Manchester.

The surprise of the Lib Dem conference was the vitriol spilled in private on Danny Alexander. Ministerial colleagues accused Alexander of treating those he considers his inferiors with contempt. One usually placid Lib Dem red boxer was angry at the failure of the ginger rodent (© Harriet Harman) to return telephone calls, and issuing of diktats via special adviser. The whisper is that the friendless Alexander’s seat in a devolved Scotland would be an issue, should he run for the leadership whenever Nick Clegg is consigned to history.

Robin Cook, when foreign secretary, dodged invitations to visit Madrid so as to avoid an ear-bashing over Gibraltar. Not so his adviser David Mathieson, who has written Frontline Madrid, a guide to civil war battlegrounds around the Spanish capital. Mathieson recalls a 1937 visit to the International Brigades’ Major Attlee Company by Clement himself. Spanish speakers were bemused when Attlee’s bellow of “No pasarán!”(“they shall not pass”) was followed by “Y no pasaremos!”(“and we shall not pass”). Ed Miliband isn’t the first Labour leader to stumble over a speech.

Somebody tell Westfield boss John Burton that Labour won control of Croydon Council in May. The retail hot shot is backing the re-election campaign of the Tory Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central. The local authority exercises much control over Westfield’s £1bn redevelopment plans for the Whitgift Centre, in Croydon.

In Scotland, SNP MSP Rob Gibson is urging voters to line hamster cages with 60,000 copies of the redundant independence white paper. I hear Gordon Brown rang Ed Balls after Cameron’s “English votes” declaration and complained: “We’ve been betrayed!” According to my source, Balls answered by asking Brown: “What did you expect?”

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Tory spin doctors urge hacks to investigate links between the Ukip £1m donor Arron Banks and Belize. Oh, the irony. Paging the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft of Belize. 

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