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3 November 2016

Commons Confidential: Trouble in the doghouse

Animal-loving MPs are being discouraged from bringing their pet pooches to work.

By Kevin Maguire

Parliament is going to the dogs. House authorities are hounding MPs accused of treating Westminster as a free kennel in the heart of London. Snarling letters were sent to animal lovers who are suspected of keeping pets in their office, after one Tory growled that the place “looked like Crufts” when a fire alarm drove pooches and their owners out of the Norman Shaw North building. The deputy serjeant-at-arms barked that, in future, security staff will collar MPs found smuggling canines into the building without permission.

The dogged pet pack is demanding that the government Chief Whip bring yapping officers of the House to heel and is straining at the leash for a constitutional clash. The House of Lords adopts a more relaxed approach. No self-respecting aristo would be seen dead without his Labrador retriever.

On the subject of dogs, I’d be grateful if the female Tory whose puppy did outside Boris Johnson’s office what the Foreign Secretary has been doing to Britain for years would get in touch. I believe that we both know who you are. The mutt deserves a reward.

The mystery of Jeremy Corbyn’s grey tracksuit is solved. It’s no shell suit crime against fashion, but his running gear. Labour’s leader was spotted jogging in a park near his home in north London. An admirer tells me he travels at a decent pace for a man of 67 with a gammy leg.

Virgin jokes wear him down, however, ever since Traingate. My snout on a Glasgow-to-London service that was actually “ram-packed” said that Corbyn was unamused when he boarded at Lancaster and a passenger asked if he would swap his reserved seat for a spot on the floor. Apparently Jezza has developed a weary gaze.

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The things you hear when you bump into neighbours of Zac Goldsmith’s mother in the Tory-cum-independent’s Richmond Park manor. A right-leaning informant recalls seeing a young, zitty Zac and his brother, Ben, heading out of the grand family pile, Ormeley Lodge in Ham, with an air rifle to shoot birds in the adjacent woods. Back then, he was an armed ecowarrior. Now, the by-election boy is a danger to himself as Tory MPs start gunning for him.

Tories mutter that Ukip’s Grandpa Munster-like figure Douglas Carswell, the fight club’s sole MP, has taken to sitting with them in the tearoom. Inevitably, this has prompted gurgling about whether the defector secretly wishes to return to the Conservative fold: such a considered politician must be revolted by the Purple Shirts tearing themselves apart.

“We would accept Jeremy Corbyn before traitorous Carswell,” spluttered a Tory tearoom regular.

The right is as gloriously sectarian as the left. 

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This article appears in the 01 Nov 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The closing of the liberal mind