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4 December 2014

Common Confidential: Dirty Des flirts with Nige to make Dave jealous

My informant whispered that Dirty Des is frustrated that a £1.2bn fortune has bought him everything except respect.

By Kevin Maguire

Richard Desmond yearns to be embraced by the establishment. In flirting with Nigel Farage, the media tycoon might hope to catch David Cameron’s eye. My informant whispered that Dirty Des is frustrated that a £1.2bn fortune has bought everything except respect. He donates noisily to charities and yet critics whisper disapprovingly about Horny Housewives and TV porn. So Dirty Des, who slipped Tony Blair £100,000 in 2001, canoodles with Nigel to make Dave jealous. But would Desmond guarantee his newspapers’ election support for the Tories rather than Ukip if Cameron recognised the pornographer’s contribution to public life? Arise, Sir Dirty Des, or Lord Desmond of Asian Babes?

The Twitter spat between Labour’s Ivan Lewis and Tom Watson over the party’s contest for a new leader in Scotland continued, I’m told, when the pair bumped into each other outside Ed Miliband’s office. Ed’s aide Anna Yearley had to ask the battling MPs to pipe down because the interns were disturbed by the swearing. On the upside, both Lewis and Watson showed a fighting spirit often lacking in the leadership.

With austerity cuts of £1.5m imposed on Kew Gardens, Chancellor George Osborne is as popular with staff threatened by redundancy as a plague of locusts. This could prove tricky. A mole muttered that Osborne’s mother, Lady Felicity, gives her son a season ticket to the botanical gardens as an annual gift.

The Goulash Co-operative, formed to buy the Gay Hussar restaurant in London, is to stage an all-day “eat-in” on 8 December after the Malaysian owners refused to sell the Soho haunt, which is still threatened with closure. Union Jimmys Airlie and Reid, who led the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in to save the shipyard from Ted Heath’s axe, will be smiling as they chew their celestial sandwiches.

It’s the end of a Sunday sofa era as Barney Jones steps down after over 20 years as editor, first of Breakfast with Frost, and then of The Andrew Marr Show. Jones has often been filmed at the entrance to the BBC meeting leaders of the opposition and prime ministers. A school caretaker once remarked they did similar jobs, clearing up after others. Jones, to his credit, agreed.

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I owe a Tory informant an eclair after Jeremy Paxman confirmed this column’s disclosure in July that the Conservatives wanted him to run for London mayor. Pity, really. I’d have loved to watch Paxman’s former BBC colleagues grill a poacher-turned-gamekeeper.

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Being Mark Reckless is a lonely business. The Tory defector to Ukip was spied eating lunch alone, facing the wall, in parliament’s terrace café. 

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