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21 July 2016

Commons confidential: Eagle’s wings clipped

Bizarre that a three-time election-winner is now Labour kryptonite.

By Kevin Maguire

The hatchet-faced Priti Patel showed no style on her debut at the Department for International Development, a cabinet post she never sought in an £11bn ministry she wanted to axe. Staff crowded into the foyer to welcome their new secretary of state after a Tannoy message announced she would be arriving in five minutes. Princess Priti strolled in and headed straight to the lift without, spluttered my indignant snout, so much as a quick glance or a plastic smile at the assembled throng. She later addressed her staff. “I want to make sure that the aid budget benefits the British people,” she declared imperiously. Not the world’s starving, thirsty, sick, homeless, uneducated or impoverished. It’s not going to end happily.

Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s rival, was born into labour movement history as the son of Professor Dai Smith, chronicler of the Welsh working class. Smith Jr’s knowledge and fluency overshadowed his leader’s while they were on good terms, and they even shared a platform at Cardiff’s grand city hall before the ill-fated referendum. Where Corbyn, no great orator, cited bumblebees, the Ponty preacher summoned fallen heroes of the International Brigades: “None shall be free, until all are free. . .” With Labour’s warring factions dug in to trenches, parallel battalions may listen only to what they want to hear over the next couple of months.

Into my possession came an intriguing scribbled note from the Ukip peer Malcolm Pearson (of Rannoch), inviting his fellow ermine-wearer Digby “Moans” Jones, formerly of the Confederation of British Industry, to join a Brexit group, co-ordinated by the speculator Richard Tice, “to make sure that the politicians and bureaucrats don’t sell us down the river/not understand the strength of our negotiating position”.

What a weird world when a couple of unelected lawmakers and the wealthy co-founder of Leave.EU
consider themselves bystanders despite wrenching Britain out of Europe.

Angela Eagle, the MP for Wallasey and erstwhile Corbyn rival, accused critics whispering that she was in Peter Mandelson’s pocket of smearing her as a Blairite. The soft-lefter is indeed her own woman, yet an MP from similar political territory muttered that he wouldn’t back Eagle after an approach by her anti-Corbynista vanguardists Chris Leslie and Emma Reynolds. And Tony’s former party general secretary Margaret McDonagh pulled strings in the background. Bizarre that a three-time election-winner is now Labour kryptonite.

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Jo Cox, I am told, drew Portugal in a Euro 2016 sweepstake at the party for new MPs on her London houseboat shortly before her assassination.

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

This article appears in the 20 Jul 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt