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16 July 2015

Burnham’s cloth ears, commons bench wars, and the Durham Miner’s Gala

Asked if the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry could join the fun, the DMA’s general secretary, Dave Hopper, replied: “We’ve got nee problem with him. It’s the Labour f***ers we never see that I object to.”

By Kevin Maguire

To the 131st Durham Miners’ Gala, where Labour leadership wannabes jostled for attention amid the brass bands and banners. The lefty Jeremy Corbyn delivered a fiery speech from the main platform and Tom Watson waved to the parade from the balcony of the Hotel Royal County. The pair have been nominated for leader and deputy by the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA).

Asked if the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry could join the fun, the DMA’s general secretary, Dave Hopper, replied: “We’ve got nee problem with him. It’s the Labour f***ers we never see that I object to.” Cue the arrival of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, to pose for photographs in the crowd.

Brooks Newmark, who resigned first as a minister and then as an MP over a newspaper report about a peep shot of the inside of his Paisley pyjamas, isn’t the only Tory who exposes himself to danger. An eminent author of historical fiction whispered to your correspondent that a horrified lady friend had shown her a private picture sent unsolicited by a Conservative member, captioned: “Look what you’re missing.” The MP felt, wrongly, that the bloated organ would impress the target of his desires. Instead, he is a figure of fun. Would the dishonourable member like to out himself?

Praises for the SNP 56 are secretly being sung by Tories. A cabinet minister informs me that the Nats are chummy with Conservatives in the privacy of the tearoom. I suspect the SNP doesn’t shout about that in Scotland. The minister observed: “I’m surprised how friendly the SNP [is] with us. Then again . . . we both hate Labour.”

Fresh details emerge of the declaration of Westminster that has ended the bench wars in the Commons chamber between the SNP and Labour. The deal is that Labour is guaranteed four of the nine places that may be reserved by prayer cards in brass name-holders, including Dennis Skinner’s corner slot, with the Nats allocated the other five. Everybody budges up to squeeze in a fifth Labour bottom (to ensure parity of numbers). If only the two parties got on so well in Scotland – or the tearoom.

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At Labour hustings, the deputy “undercard” is more entertaining than the main event. Digs by Rupert Murdoch’s nemesis Tom Watson at candidates courting the Sun King included a pop at Caroline Flint. When Watson lamented the absence of Chuka Umunna or Rushanara Ali on all-white panels, she was overheard muttering, “I bet you stitched them up.”

Cloth ears, it seems, were to blame for Andy Burnham’s claim at hustings that petrol costs “160p” a litre. Mary Creagh, sitting alongside him, had muttered that it was £1.16 but Burnham misheard. If ever a favour backfired . . . 

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