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19 May 2016

Commons confidential: Pure and easy

From "rebel with a cause" Iain Duncan Smith to Tim Farron's rock band years.

By Kevin Maguire

Rebel for a cause Iain Duncan Smith is now free to speak his mind after stepping down from the Cabinet bus. A snout overheard the former social injustice minister during a breakfast meeting, giving his view on the widening police net looking into accusations that the Conservative Party failed to declare expenses for a coach-load of MPs at the last election. “Somebody really screwed up,” he opined. Will IDS be in demand at a string of upcoming by-elections?

“Dear Dennis,” began an invitation from Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. “I am delighted to announce that applications are now open for the first ever Labour Party Young Activists’ Academy. This is an opportunity for you as a young member . . .” Dennis Skinner, the “young member”, is otherwise known as the Beast of Bolsover. He is 84.

Tim Farron’s vocal backing of a British future in Europe prompted an unexpected response from The Who’s Roger Daltrey. The singer informed the Lib Dem frontman: “I’m not talking for any generation” – My Generation? – but the country should “start now by voting out” to rebuild Europe.

The indie music fan Farron once played in a band, variously called Fred the Girl and The Voyeurs, but disagrees with the rock idol. You Better You Bet Farron will be Out in the Street to ensure voters Won’t Get Fooled Again and opt to remain in Europe. His biggest nightmare is Boris the Spider.

Brexit and a faltering economy doesn’t seem to weigh too heavily on the shoulders of George Osborne. The Chancellor’s a culture vulture, who recently found four and a half hours for Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House.

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My snout was tickled to observe “Sir” George strutting like a peacock beside a person unknown in the Paul Hamlyn Hall, financed by the Labour donor Paul Hamlyn. Tannhäuser blends history, myth and invention, which is very appropriate given some of the figures conjured up by the Treasury in recent weeks.

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Comrade Corbyn was hailed as “the messiah” by the Aslef president Tosh McDonald at the train drivers’ union conference last week. In the Life of Jeremy, it feels more as though “he’s not the messiah” but “a very naughty boy”. And yet there was something to McDonald’s tribute. The biblical messiah had 12 disciples – about the same as Corbyn in the PLP.

Sweating Labour MPs are studying fresh rules to avert civil war should the Tories move to reduce the numbers of Commons seats from 650 to 600. Party proposals state that an MP will automatically inherit a new constituency should it contain more than 60 per cent of their existing seat. The dispossessed will need the interest of at least 40 per cent to challenge rivals. Stand by for bloodshed and some big-name casualties.

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

This article appears in the 18 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Huckster