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19 March 2015

Commons Confidential: Tough talk at Tesco

Plus: the latest jibe doing the Labour rounds.

By Kevin Maguire

You may recall the Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott parting ways with her distressed child to traipse through the division lobby on Michael Cockerell’s documentary Inside the Commons. She earns sympathy over the episode at meetings in marginal Cardiff Central. Curious, then, to learn that, under a deal between the parties, MPs with kids on the parliamentary estate may be nodded through – permitted to vote without appearing in person before the tellers. Labour whips mutter darkly that Willott walked for the cameras. That’s either a heinous slur or fancy footwork on her part.

Unison’s organiser Melanie Onn is fighting hard to hold Great Grimsby for Labour against Ukip’s Victoria Ayling – not the brightest of the Purple Shirts. Brainbox Ayling triggered guffaws by asking: “What happens when renewable energy runs out?” Not that the ossified Grimsby Labour Party has been renewed under Austin Mitchell MP. A visitor was excited to discover a stairlift at the local HQ, the first he’d seen in a party building. Enthusiasm waned when it was suggested that their membership was so advanced it was for the youth officer.

Laura Sandys is counting the days. The retiring Tory pro-European in Nigel Farage’s targeted Thanet South seat was struck by the similarities between parliament and prison during a recent meeting with ex-cons in Margate. MPs and inmates both split into gangs. Whips play the role of warders, enforcing discipline. Sandys refers to her forthcoming “parole” when the Commons is dissolved on 30 March.

Pity the marketing man Jonathan Lord, compared unfavourably to a 1970s Teddy boy band. The Woking Tory MP was volunteered to replace the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at some Surrey hustings. Howard Kaye, Hunt’s train-driver Labour rival, described it as like buying a ticket for Royal Blood and seeing Showaddywaddy instead. Still, the show must go on.

As the Chipping Norton chumocracy rallies around Jeremy Clarkson, oop north the Brigg and Goole Tory blabbermouth Andrew Percy is on his own. He harangued Gillian Boatman, Labour Mayor of Goole Town Council, who works on the tills at Tesco, claiming she hadn’t invited him to a war memorial ceremony. Company rules prevented Boatman from answering back. An FOI request backfired when Percy found his name on the list. The council published a helpful letter from the forgetful MP explaining, politely, why he was unable to attend.

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The latest jibe doing the Labour rounds is that Ed “Two Kitchens” Miliband is so unpopular he isn’t including his picture on leaflets in Doncaster North.

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