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25 February 2016

Commons confidential: Swivel-eyed Gove

Why Gove's euroscepticism takes us back to the future. Plus: Zac Goldsmith, Labour plotters and Baroness Stowell's iron fist.

By Kevin Maguire

Michael Gove’s coming out is back to the future for the Europhobe. I was reminded by a Murdoch scribbler of the cabinet nerd’s role in an episode the Times may prefer to forget. Rewind to 1997, when the Thunderer wrestled with sticking by John Major’s doomed Tories or embracing Tony Blair’s New Labour. The Brussels-baiting Gove was obsessed with Europe even then and his Third Way was to urge readers to vote for Eurohaters of all parties, helpfully naming names and seats. Thus the Times came to endorse Eurofrothers from the Conservative bore Bill Cash on the right to the Labour quitter Tony Benn on the left. Gove’s weren’t the only eyes swivelling.

The word on the street is that David Cameron, via Ed Llewellyn, the PM’s chief of staff, enlisted the help of his Europhile predecessor-but-one, Blair, to oil a few wheels ahead of the Battle of Brussels. Blair has remained on good terms with the continent’s movers and shakers, unlike a certain Tory leader who has spent ten years rubbishing the European Union.

Zac Goldsmith’s coming out in favour of Team Leave is unlikely to assist the squillionaire Trustafundian’s chances of becoming London Mayor. Tory-supporting bankers were less than impressed when the languid candidate declined an invitation to a power breakfast, gifting his Labour rival, Sadiq Khan, a free shout to charm financial gamblers over the croissants.

Labour plotters waiting for the grass roots to abandon Comrade Corbyn must have been disappointed by Labour’s Welsh conference in Llandudno, where Jezzamania reigned. From breakfast to late-night kebab shop, fans clamoured for selfies with the bearded prophet of old-time socialism. Punishment beatings continue, however, for the Corbyn apparatchik Andrew Fisher, carpeted last year for urging Twitter followers to vote for a Class War anarchist in Croydon South. The speechwriting Spurs fan was forced to write Corbyn a line favourable to arch-rivals Arsenal.

The Con leader in the Lords, Baroness Stowell of Beeston, operates a regime so strict, she’s known as Rosa Klebb’s smiley sister. The unelected chamber once oozed clubby gentility. No longer, as the government struggles to ram dubious legislation past their inquisitive lordships. Labour peers grumbling that Tory whips retaliate by withholding dates of sitting days have now taken to asking tour guides for advance notice of recesses. No fee applicable.

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Romsey’s unamused Caroline “Nookie” Nokes scolds bawdy Tory lads full of tearoom innuendo since a string of male MPs offered to show the giggling Enviro Sec, Liz Truss, their sausages. Just because you were involved in a sex scandal . . . 

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

This article appears in the 24 Feb 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Boris Backlash