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28 October 2015

Commons confidential: Jeremy Corbyn rebukes his aides for lack of professionalism

Meanwhile: Sajid Javid's star is on the wane, and Alan Duncan's wardrobe is in flux. 

By Kevin Maguire

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s genial leader, read what (for him) passes as the riot act to staff recently, pleading that they be more professional. The cycling vegetarian dislikes confrontation but my snout in the Norman Shaw Buildings whispered that a frustrated Comrade Corbyn was forced to “have a word” with his apparatchiks, winning enemies and alienating friends.

The chats took place as party officials stroked their chins, wondering how to defuse a potentially explosive complaint from the Labour banker and former parliamentary candidate Emily “niece of Hilary and granddaughter of Tony” Benn, demanding the expulsion of Andrew Fisher, Corbyn’s shoot-from-the-lip policy chief. At the general election, Fisher urged the citizens of Croydon South to back an anarchist from Class War instead of her. Corbyn, busy massaging the egos of critics including MPs John Mann and Simon Danczuk, is embarrassed. Tony Benn was his political hero.

 

The Tory merchant banker Sajid Javid’s star is on the wane without having burned particularly brightly. The Out-of-Business Secretary was initially omitted from a Downing Street sales pitch to China’s president, Xi Jinping. On the list of invited ministers reeled off by No 10 were David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, Philip Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Justine Greening and even Greg Hands. Jilted Javid was included only after hacks raised awkward questions about his absence.

 

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The consolation knighthood for the Lib Dem Danny Alexander, Osborne’s “useful idiot” through the coalition years, was another nail in the satirical coffin. Sir Danny still feels poorly treated, I hear, by the people of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, who ditched the former Treasury chief secretary, despite his pork-barrel politics that provided £2m in the constituency for Loch Ness and its monster. Sir Danny, whispered my informant, is bracing himself for a return to the ungrateful Highlands. After his party’s rout across the entire UK, his unpopularity is not restricted to the Highlands.

 

Sartorial standards are down. Alan Duncan is hanging up his Privy Council uniform. The pint-sized Tory MP resembled the head of a military junta in the black outfit, lined with gold braid, with white-plumed admiral’s hat. Dinky wore it to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral but, I am assured, is now to leave it in the wardrobe for good. Privy counsellors are no longer required to wear court uniform at gatherings.

 

The M&S Europhile Stuart Rose loves the continent so much, slurs my source, that he collects its finest vintages in one of London’s best wine cellars. To avoid the expense of a referendum, I propose a drink-off with Nigel Farage.

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

This article appears in the 28 Oct 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the Third Intifada?