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29 March 2017updated 06 Apr 2017 11:34am

Commons Confidential: Farron dines with the devil

It was surprising to learn that Tim Farron's media team boozed in a Wetherspoons pub in York, when the chain is owned by the Brexit elite’s Tim Martin

By Kevin Maguire

Labour fundraisers are a reliable guide to political capital and Jeremy Corbyn’s currency is rapidly devaluing. A Lenin cap signed by the Dear Leader raised just £100 at an auction to bankroll Tracy Brabin MP’s Batley backyard. Bidders paid £350 for a brewery tour, signalling that members prefer to drown their sorrows these days. Word reached me of an awkward encounter between Corbyn and Ed Miliband at the Portcullis House coffee bar on Budget morning. The leader’s puzzled expression when his predecessor wished him good luck suggested Philip Hammond wasn’t foremost on Comrade Corbyn’s mind. A nonchalant shrug when the penny dropped hinted at the subsequent performance.

Chirpy Miliband is bizarrely Labour’s most optimistic MP, urging colleagues to cheer up because this is socialism’s moment. Curiously, he doesn’t explain how. My snout maintains that Miliband is happy that his replacement is an even bigger dud. Ouch!

In the Lords, an ermined inmate reported grumbles from peers denied their £300 tax-free allowance after the terror attack. The House was due to meet at 3pm and never convened formally so no fee is due to those locked in for six hours for their safety. Should the authorities donate the money saved to the appeal for the murdered PC Keith Palmer’s family?

Theresa May, now growing into the role of prime minister, prompted a friendly Tory to recall ministers touting for support last summer. Sajid Javid inquiring if he should stand for the leadership triggered the loudest guffaws. Anyone heard from him since?

The Northumberland miner Ian Lavery has reshaped the debate as Labour’s joint elections co-ordinator. So many confusing acronyms were uttered in conference calls that the Wansbeck left-winger asked if it was code to confuse security services. Memories of the 1984-85 pit strike never fade. They could always switch to WhatsApp.

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The bad blood spilled at Labour’s disastrous shadow cabinet meeting in Unison’s HQ continues. One frontbencher complained that they broke 25 minutes late for lunch, so the mini burgers were cold. The greatest humiliation was an attempt to smuggle Labour’s would-be ministers out of the car park, past Emily Thornberry’s bike, to dodge the waiting media. Appropriately it was the least successful flight since Gordon Jackson answered, “Thank you,” in The Great Escape.

Tim Farron makes huge play of fighting to keep Britain in Europe, so it was surprising to learn that his media team boozed in a Wetherspoons pub in York, when the chain is owned by the Brexit elite’s Tim Martin. Is that what they call supping with the devil?

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

This article appears in the 29 Mar 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition