Commons Confidential: Tom and Jerry, the Corbyn effect and rumours of a bottle blond Boris

The Prime Minister’s closest circle accuses his wannabe successor of dyeing his hair.

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Rivalry between the Bullingdon Club frenemies David Cameron and Boris Johnson has taken a turn for the worse. The Prime Minister’s closest circle accuses his wannabe successor of dyeing his hair.

The charge is a bit rich, given that this column reported evidence years ago that Dave’s suspiciously grey-free barnet was coloured to retain a youthful air. But a No 10 insider tells me that a “chlorine tinge” was detected in bright light and it’s assumed that Mr Blond Ambition has also turned to the bottle. Johnson’s mop is his trademark and he is prone to peering into a mirror to check that it’s untidy before appearing in public, ruffling his crowning glory with a hand if it’s too neat. Cameron has anointed George Osborne as his successor. The dye is cast for a grubby fight.

The Labour leadership race’s dynamic has shifted to the advantage of Jeremy Corbyn, with the endorsement of Unite, which has both financial and political clout.

Victory for the left-winger remains improbable, though not impossible. A strong showing, with one Labour shadow cabinet member predicting that Corbyn will be the runner-up, would compel the new leader to offer a post to the rebellious candidate of the party’s Syriza wing. Corbyn is aware that Diane Abbott was made a middling public health spokeswoman after the last leadership contest before Ed Miliband sacked her for disloyalty. The anti-Trident Corbyn has mused that he would take the defence post. The race’s fallout could be considerable.

Austerity extends to the ranks of the army. The defence minister HMS Penny Mordaunt admitted to Strangford’s Democratic Unionist MP, Jim Shannon, that the size of an infantry battalion has shrunk under the Tories. In 2010, it was 570 soldiers. Today, it’s 530. The mini-battalions camouflage deeper military cuts.

It’s a coincidence, I’m sure, that, in the year of the Labour contest, all members in Yorkshire and Humberside were invited to the annual garden party held by Yvette Cooper’s Normanton local party and that of the Morley constituency of her election victim hubby, Ed Balls. My snout attended the event, at the couple’s Castleford home, which included a bouncy castle, tug of war and live music. Gastronome Balls took the tongs at the barbecue.

The couple are very popular and the image of Balls as a pantomime villain is one of the great misrepresentations of modern politics. Unlike Cameron, he doesn’t stop flipping burgers when the cameras leave.

The award for the best quip at the Labour hustings goes to Tom Watson. He’d prefer not to be Corbyn’s deputy, to avoid the Tory press mocking them as Tom and Jerry.

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 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war