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26 January 2017

Commons Confidential: George’s new job

Tim Farron's double, disunited Unite, and Osborne joins BlackRock.

By Kevin Maguire

It’s back to the future in the battle for the leadership of Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union. Tony Blair is, I hear from an impeccable snout, rallying his old troops to support Gerard Coyne’s challenge to the incumbent, Len McCluskey. Toppling “Red Len” would assist regime change and the ousting of Jeremy Corbyn, so the former prime minister, reasserting himself in British politics after amassing a fortune and not bringing peace to the Middle East, is urging colleagues to assist Coyne’s campaign.

The intervention prompts memories of the New Labour propaganda machine’s 1995 backing of Jack Dromey against Bill Morris for the top job at the Transport and General Workers’ Union, a forerunner of Unite. Morris, the McCluskey of his day, won.

The Supreme Court’s verdict took the fizz out of a champagne celebration to mark the return of the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, to the government front bench after a 20-year interregnum. Andrew Mitchell, the host, postponed the Monday-night bash and put the plonk on ice to avoid parliamentarians turning up bleary-eyed to respond to the legal finding. Britain’s judges were, as the Daily Mail might report, the enemies of boozing.

A reporter who interviewed Dennis Skinner for the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung didn’t do his homework. The Beast of Bolsover has spent 47 years shunning Westminster’s watering holes, so the scribbler’s suggestion that they chat in a bar didn’t pop a cork, particularly at 10am. I suspect that the hapless hack could have done with a drink after the outraged Skinner had finished with him.

The trustatoryian George Osborne is living the dream with his earner at the US speculator BlackRock. This column described in February 2006 the then chancellor-to-be musing on an alternative career as he squirmed over a photograph that had surfaced of his younger self with a prostitute. “At times like that,” Osborne brooded 11 years ago, “I think how much easier it would be to run a hedge fund.” Will it be easier from inside politics?

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Tim Farron’s office was discombobulated after a comedian posing as the Lib Dem leader blagged a Union Jack coat and a flat white coffee with two sugars on Carnaby Street in London. On the upside, those who were conned clearly liked his cheerful persona. The downside was that nobody knew who the man was supposed to look like.

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The weekly limited-circulation “I don’t think he got the memo” newsletter from Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, carried an admission that he plays the video game Destiny on the Xbox One. Still no meeting of minds, then, as Corbyn prefers photographing manhole covers.

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

This article appears in the 26 Jan 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The eclipse of the West