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22 September 2016

Commons confidential: Own up, Owen

Why is the Owen Smith campaign asking for money? Plus: the Lib Dem villege fete, and why Emily Thornberry looks on the bright side.

By Kevin Maguire

Success opens wallets and looming failure is a shut purse for Owen Smith’s campaign. A snout whispers that the total raised by a begging email from Chris Bryant, asking for £100 each from the 162 Labour MPs who nominated Pontypridd’s kamikaze kid, would barely cover a parish council by-election, let alone a Labour leadership battle. “There’s no point,” grumbled a Westminster non-payer, “in throwing good money after bad.” The email was at least properly addressed. One earlier Smith camp text began, for example, “Dear Creasy” instead of Stella. It’s not as if MPs are precious or anything.

Will “Son of Jack” Straw CBE is discovering that a calling card headed “executive director of Britain Stronger in Europe” is no door-opener since the Brexit result. When he strolled into Legal & General’s London HQ, a receptionist asked the red-socked Europhile to spell his surname before informing S-T-R-A-W that its chairman, John Kingman, wasn’t available. I wonder if a Vote Leave emissary would be whisked upstairs.

Jeremy Corbyn’s attack Rotties unfairly, if effectively, smeared Citizen Smith as a Big Pharma lobbyist who favours NHS privatisation, but the challenger’s team was relieved the Momentum mob never called him a “château socialist”: Smith inherited a house in France from a relative. My snout muttered the force de dissuasion was one of Corbyn’s inner circle owning a place in Normandy. Nothing’s too good for the ouvriers.

To Brighton for the Lib Dem village fete, which replaces the somewhat larger conferences staged before it was punished electorally for joining the ConDem coalition. The Christians and humanists were kept apart in the exhibition area and the party’s history group applied Stalinist censorship to rewrite the past. The fallen hero Cyril Smith’s photograph has vanished since the obese spanker was branded a paedophile.

In an email to all MPs, that supremely self-important Tory, the Gainsborough growler Edward Leigh, urged them to “abolish the useless two-week September sitting” and restore a 12-week recess. The extended holiday break, argued the ruddy-faced former chairman of the public accounts committee, would accelerate repairs to the crumbling building. How gloriously convenient for all concerned.

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“Looking on the bright side of life” should be Emily Thornberry’s new motto. Labour’s irrepresible shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman jokes she has made Jean-Marc Ayrault famous in France after the Gallic press picked up on her blind spot. The downside is TV interviewers might ask the forgetful Islingtonian to boost the profiles of other European leaders she can’t name.

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

This article appears in the 15 Feb 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times