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10 March 2016

Commons Confidential: Bipartisan tandoori

Menu faces, press gallery places and why you should never get on the wrong side of Michael Dugher.

By Kevin Maguire

Tribune, the best-known group in Labour history, is to be revived by MPs. The party isn’t short of talking shops – off the top of my I head, I can name the Socialist Campaign Group, Progress, Red Shift, Renewal, Compass, Blue Labour, Common Good, Labour First, Labour Together, plus Momentum. Tribune faded away in the 1990s and comrades intend its resuscitation to be a bridge across a fissiparous left.

The former London cabbie Clive Efford, the MP for Eltham, is hoping that this resurrection will be more successful than his attempt 11 years ago, crushed by the party whips. At least that’s an act beyond the current leader.

Labour’s band of former miners and pit village MPs was surprised to see Nick Boles speak at a reception for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust. The first Conservative minister to attend in six years, Boles explained that it was wiser to accept than decline an invitation from the gathering’s host.

“Unlike the leader of the opposition,” said Boles, “I know not to get on the wrong side of Michael Dugher. That’s why when he wants something, it’s best to do it.” Blushing Corbynistas stared at their pit boots.

The Sun didn’t hold back in describing the oleaginous Matthew Hancock as “George Osborne’s lickspittle”, before declaring: “How ironic that a man who named his cat after the Chancellor is himself merely Osborne’s dim but obedient pet.” This vituperative blast was payback from Tony Gallagher, the Sun’s editor, who blames him for rumours, revealed in this column, that the Tories went over his head to dampen last year’s coverage criticising tax credits cuts.

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Jeremy Corbyn (thrice), Emily Thornberry, Eric Pickles, Ann Widdecombe, Mary Creagh and Frank Dobson are among the smiling faces on the menu of the Red Rose Tandoori on Holloway Road in north London. The camera-brash Keith Vaz, who would turn up at the opening of a milk carton for a photo opportunity, will be furious. He isn’t included.

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David Munro is a fast operator. The Tory councillor in Jeremy Hunt’s backyard hopes to be Surrey’s next police and crime commissioner. Caught speeding in a 30mph zone, Munro said after completing a speed awareness programme: “I found the course to be exceptionally informative and useful.” Surely the cruellest punishment would be for him to get hired for the post.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery could be reduced during the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster. A Tory involved in discussions complained that it’s full for Prime Minister’s Questions only and that tickets for this “waste of space” should be sold to tourists to finance the renovation. What price democracy?

This article appears in the 09 Mar 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Psycho