Commons Confidential: Big and blond and red all over

Plus: Ashcroft's marketing quandries and a Dennis Skinner raiding party.

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Boris “Blond Ambition” Johnson is finding that Tory colleagues are showing a distinct lack of deference to a second-time-around MP yearning to lead the party. The portly Alec Shelbrooke, a son of two teachers, who could be mistaken for a fleshy fogey, in his waistcoat with fob watch and chain, was first elected for a Yorkshire seat while Johnson was on his gap eight years as London mayor. Sticking both thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, he boomed in his poshest voice: “Now, young man, where do you represent?” The flustered self-chosen one spluttered, “Uxbridge,” before Shelbrooke and a group of wind-up merchants standing out of the Speaker’s eyeline burst into giggles, to Johnson’s evident embarrassment.

Nick Clegg’s perks of high office were withdrawn within hours of his former line manager David Cameron’s victory. First to be reclaimed was the redundant deputy PM’s official BlackBerry. The vanquished Lib Dem was overheard muttering in a Putney café that his wife, Miriam, has advised him to buy an iPhone and get out and about to avoid feeling depressed. So far there are no reports of Clegg the Disowned climbing into the back of the family car and expecting to be driven.

I’m told that Dennis Skinner displayed an impressive turn of speed for an 83-year-old to bag his corner seat for the Queen’s Speech. The queue of MPs at the main entrance into the Commons chamber snaked through Members’ Lobby into Central Lobby before the doors were unlocked at 8am. The canny Beast of Bolsover led a Labour raiding party of Ronnie Campbell and the Ians, Lavery and Mearns, through a back door the moment Big Ben chimed the opening time.

The Tory billionaire Michael Ashcroft’s mistake was to believe his own opinion polls and foresee Cameron’s defeat. The PM’s triumph doubtless necessitated a few revisions to his forthcoming biography of the Tory leader, which the one-time tax exile (who resigned his seat in the Lords before the current tax year) had described as Cameron’s obituary. One wag suggested that Ashcroft start by changing the title from Call Me Dave to Call Me David.

Touch naive, the Cornwall Tory Sheryll Murray. She sent to every MP an invitation to join the Palace of Westminster Lions Club (£25 fee plus £7 a month). My snout sniggered: MPs must sign a declaration stating they’re “of good moral character and reputation”.

Douglas Carswell must wake up every morning wondering why he defected to Ukip. Bouncers were hired for a recent Tendring Council meeting, the chief executive fearing trouble as Ukip splinters in that part of Essex. Meanwhile, the session’s date had been switched to avoid a clash with wrestling in the town hall.

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 04 June 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The myths of Magna Carta

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