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2 February 2017updated 08 Feb 2017 9:24am

Commons Confidential: Labour’s bull’s eye

Charlotte speaks, a Colonel drinks, and John Gwynne provides a pointed metaphor for Labour's troubles.

By Kevin Maguire

The Prime Minister must rue grounding the highly experienced Downing Street spokesperson Helen Bower after the press conference in Ankara at which she was questioned about Donald Trump’s racist travel ban.

The press pack reckoned that Bower’s absence – the civil servant was left in Blighty as “punishment” for an impending switch to spin for Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office – led to Theresa May’s excruciating blanking of questions, which provoked heckling. Bower is a pro and is switched on. The Tory “Gang of Five” on May’s trip, including the joint chiefs of staff, missed the danger signals. Bower was squeezed out by Team May.

Heated words were exchanged in the shadow cabinet when the party’s election co-ordinator, Jon “Tricky” Trickett, tried to dodge briefing MPs. The quietly spoken John Cryer, the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), unusually raised his voice when Tricky declared that anybody who wanted to know about Labour’s preparedness for Mayaggedon should observe the Copeland by-election.

Exasperated, Cryer demanded that Trickett speak to a PLP meeting at 6pm on a Monday in room 14. Tricky’s reluctance is perhaps understandable. His last update was described by one MP present as the worst that he had ever endured.

Colonel Bob Stewart spluttered into his pint on a sneaky foray into the Bogside during a Northern Ireland committee visit when Labour’s Stevie Hepburn informed the Tory officer that Peadar O’Donnell’s, the Derry bar that they were supping in, is named after an IRA veteran. In uniform, Colonel Bob was the local commander when a bomb killed 17, including 11 soldiers, in the Droppin’ Well bar in the nearby Ballykelly. That Stewart could order a drink without a care in the world underlined how far Northern Ireland has come.

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The darts commentator John Gwynne – the father of Andrew Gwynne, the Denton and Reddish MP and Labour’s Copeland mastermind – will host a Whitehaven exhibition match during the by-election campaign with Phil “the Power” Taylor, the Roger Federer of arrows. Gwynne, Jr will hit the political bull’s eye if Labour’s 2,564 majority survives a sustained Tory assault.

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

This article appears in the 01 Feb 2017 issue of the New Statesman, American carnage