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23 June 2016

Commons confidential: Boris’s blond Brexit ambition

Boris Johnson adopting Brexit for his Tory leadership bid extended to the self-anointed premier-in-waiting holding out an olive branch in unusual directions.

By Kevin Maguire

Boris Johnson adopting Brexit for his Tory leadership bid extended to the self-anointed premier-in-waiting, supremely confident of referendum victory, holding out an olive branch in unusual directions. Bumping into Unite’s “Red Len” McCluskey, a favourite Tory bogeyman, Brother Boris pleaded with Comrade Len to accept: “I’m not anti-trade union, I’m a One-Nation Tory.” Comrade Len’s scepticism, rooted in Johnson having refused to meet trade unions in his eight years as London mayor and then, as a Tory MP, voting to shackle organised labour, resulted in the Downing Street aspirant agreeing to beer and sandwiches. “Give me a ring on 24 June to arrange our meeting,” was Johnson’s parting bark. I suspect any call depends on the result, Brother Boris.

David Cameron suffered a series of indignities during a bruising campaign, though perhaps none greater than in Henley, coincidentally Johnson’s old Oxfordshire stamping ground. My local snout muttered that a town hall-style gathering with the Prime Minister was moved to a smaller space when it was noted that even a busload of Remainers driven down from Oxford would fail to fill the venue that had been booked. Win or lose, the walls are closing in on Dave.

Ukip’s venomous Nigel Farage, the Leave campaign’s embarrassing uncle and self-designated victim, shopped himself playing the race card with the odious “Breaking Point” refugee poster, but was the Little Englander a hidden hand behind inflammatory newspaper coverage? A Man of Kent, flogging film of a boat supposedly used to smuggle migrants from outside the European Union across the Channel, informed reporters: “I must consult my legal adviser Nigel Farage on what to do.” Joking or not, and Farage isn’t legally qualified, the images were splashed as another anti-EU scare story across the front of the Brexit Sun.

Droopy Zac Goldsmith’s long sulk since he lost the London election with dishonour has a way to go to rival Ted Heath’s 30-year mope, but whispers now grow louder in parliament that he might walk away from politics in the summer. If he gets in touch, I’d be happy to report otherwise.

Momentum, Labour’s self-preening lefty movement, is both overhyped and unfairly run down. The North Tyneside cell loses friends and makes enemies. Declaring on Facebook that party MPs who support Brexit are “despicable and traitorous” was unwise above a mugshot of Dennis Skinner, if not John Mann, who was alongside Skinner. The glorious Beast of Bolsover is a darling of the Labour Party and parliament’s most principled member.

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Jo Cox was as decent an MP as you could ever hope to encounter. RIP.

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

This article appears in the 04 Jan 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain