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30 July 2015

Commons Confidential: Entryism schism, Farron “does God“ and gotcha Tories

Don’t the Tories expel members who fund rival parties?

By Kevin Maguire

Gotcha! A prominent Tory roaming in the NHS privateer Jeremy Hunt’s backyard was busted as a £3 infiltrator in Labour’s leadership contest.

The Waverley Conservative councillor Stefan Reynolds, described unflatteringly as “an absolute sh**house” by a Labour local rival, was unmasked when officials in the South-West Surrey constituency party combed a list of registered supporters.

Reynolds, a member of the local authority’s cabinet who enjoys boasting about his wine collection, was sheepish when I asked why he’d signed a statement that he supports Labour’s “aims and values” and is “not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it”. The councillor muttered that he wasn’t about to defect to Labour – which barred him from voting and is treating his £3 as a donation. Don’t the Tories expel members who fund rival parties?

After the latest in a series of “rare” interventions into British politics by the exiled David Miliband, an activist in the party’s New York branch wondered if the leader-that-wasn’t actually has a vote in September’s party election.

Mark Seddon, a former editor of Tribune and thorn in Tony Blair’s left side, remarked he’d never seen the elder Milibrother at a party meeting. New York Labour meets in Muldoon’s, the Irish bar. In better times, members were served red wine and canapés at Harry Evans’s gaff. That’s more Miliband’s style.

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Tim Farron does “do God”, but not on television. The evangelical Christian praying for a Liberal Democrat resurrection times his Sunday-morning interviews in Cumbria to finish before service at his local church. My snout tells me Farron insists that cameras never show the church in the background – so as not to come across to voters as a religious fanatic. The church, in turn, may be equally relieved not to be linked to the messiah of a strange political sect.

Tory bloodhounds failed before the parliamentary recess to track down a prankster or pranksters depositing cat food on the desk of Charlie Elphicke in the government whips’ office.

The phantom moggie lover(s) left, among other things, an empty bottle of kitty milk and a bag of Dreamies treats. The problem is that Elphicke is a dog lover. His Norwich terrier Star won the 2012 Westminster pooch of the year competition. Sounds like a case for Lassie.

Tony Blair’s old bagman Lord Levy placed a chair against a door to trap Ken Livingstone in the Sky News Westminster studio. “Lefties should be locked up,” he laughed. But never in front of a TV camera, Alastair Campbell would have told him in the old days.

Ed Balls has turned down Celebrity Big Brother since losing his seat in parliament. One is a house full of imbeciles behaving badly. The other is a dreadful television programme.

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