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6 July 2017

Commons Confidential: The Ox turns

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The humbled Theresa May swallowed her self-respect to ring David Cameron to beg for the former prime minister’s public backing of the £1bn DUP bung. But I’m told she deploys her hubby, Philip, to keep in touch with two trickier characters.

The word in Downing Street is that No 10’s First Man is the Prime Minister’s intermediary with Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her former joint chiefs of staff. The impeccable snout whispered that Practical Phil has been telephoning the gruesome twosome to seek guidance since the pair quit. This surreptitious contact permits May to assure cabinet victims who wanted them gone that she has not spoken with the fallen pair. A cunning plan worthy of Baldrick.

Of all parliament’s idiosyncrasies, new members find spookiest the daily five minutes of worship before sittings. Some regulars go to bag a spot for the rest of the day. Labour’s Eleanor Smith, a black NHS theatre nurse who won the racist Enoch Powell’s old Wolverhampton seat, told the atheist Dennis Skinner she had noticed that he placed a prayer card to claim a seat, then didn’t attend.

The cherubic-faced Dan Carden, Len McCluskey’s former bag carrier, remained staring forward when everybody else turned – as is the tradition – to face the wall. Comrade Mary Creagh’s hand gestures failed to twist the Scouser. Carden’s a rebel without a prayer.

My spy muttered that the sacked Brexit minister David Jones spat brass tacks about the incompetent Theresa May in the Newsnight green room before going on air to be far more amenable. “I hate doing that,” the Tory backbencher said on his return. The viewers were short-changed.

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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s new spad, Robert “the Ox” Oxley, was trained in a shadowy TaxPayers’ Alliance madrasa with a fatwa on public spending. The Ox, who was a senior Conservative election aide, abandoned Priti Patel at the Department for International Development for Fallon and the military.

To jump from spending a guaranteed 0.7 per cent to 2 per cent of GDP while keeping yourself on the public payroll is either a kamikaze run or he’s a poacher-turned-gamekeeper, learning to love public expenditure.

The Labour landlord Mark Tami, the pairing whip allocating rooms, has a wicked sense of humour. Tom Watson, the Hammer of Murdoch, has moved into a suite close to the Sun on Sunday. That we are unableto read about it in the News of the World is why there’ll be friction.

Traditionalists complain that the Aye and No lobbies double as crèches with half a dozen babies carried into evening votes. The mams and dads maintain that the biggest whingers are grumbling men spitting out dummies.

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This article appears in the 05 Jul 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn mania