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30 September 2015

Commons confidential: Blue v Blue

Blue-on-blue violence has escalated in the Conservative Party.

By Kevin Maguire

Blue-on-blue violence has escalated between the armed and dangerous Michael Ashcroft and the simpering David Cameron. The spurned billionaire has brought forward the publication of his biography of the Prime Minister to the Monday of the Tory conference. I wonder if the assassination tome includes a curious tale that is apparently doing the rounds at Chipping Norton country suppers. My snout insists – though, in true Call Me Dave fashion, I’m unable to verify the account – that Cameron’s evening was recently interrupted by a guest bursting into the dining room brandishing a toy Kalashnikov. Pretending to be a hooded terrorist, the lout claimed that he was a kidnapper and would take the PM. I, for one, can’t believe Jeremy Clarkson would be so crass.

Jeremy Corbyn’s wry humour remains undimmed after an abuse blitzkrieg by the Tory press. Distant relatives whom he barely knows are ringing Labour’s unlikely leader to report the unwelcome arrival of hacks digging dirt. The great-great-grandfather who was the master of a Victorian workhouse couldn’t be contacted for a quote. Told of another media approach to a living relative, Jezza shrugged his shoulders and replied: “I suppose at least I’ll finish with a free family tree.” Ideal decoration for his allotment.

Bit of a snob, Disdainful Dave. The Ashcroft-Cameron war reminds your correspondent of a comment overheard when the PM learned that Isabel Oakeshott, Ashcroft’s co-author, had moved to Chipping Norton. “She lives in the poor part,” sniffed Cameron.

An informant touts a surprise choice to be Mayor Tyke, in the event that George Osborne’s Northern Power Cut leads to a united Yorkshire region. This man of letters was born and lived most of his life in London and Slough but is now the MP for Hull West and Hessle: Alan Johnson, who is fronting Labour’s EU referendum campaign. The theory is that the engaging Johnson’s base on the Humber makes him a relative outsider who could bring the rivals Leeds and Sheffield into the fold.

The Trade Union Bill, with its threat of fines if notification isn’t given before the sending of strike tweets, has general secretaries queuing up for martyrdom. Dave Prentis, Mark Serwotka and Paul Kenny all vow to go to prison to defy the unjust law. It’s not likely to happen, but Unite’s Len McCluskey isn’t quite as keen on a bed in Her Majesty’s guest house. Asked if he was prepared to join the TUC Three, Len responded: “Put their names down first.”

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A hard-left newspaper, Labour Briefing, has been rejuvenated by Corbyn’s election. Outside the party conference, a seller shouted: “Get your Labour Briefing, Labour’s mainstream!” How times change.

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

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This article appears in the 30 Sep 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide