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20 July 2017

Commons Confidential: Theresa May’s Swiss retreat

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

A self-declared feminist of sorts and the UK’s second female Prime Minister, Theresa May toils in a Downing Street with more than a hint of a gentlemen’s club. The lavatory outside her ground-floor office is a gents. Women visitors are directed down a corridor to the disabled toilet. Margaret Thatcher preferred to work upstairs, near a ladies. Is the Prime Minister really required to pop into a disabled loo when nature calls?

One leader’s bad news is another’s glad tidings, so Jeremy Corbyn smiled on election night while May shed her little tear. What the rivals had in common at 10pm on 8 June was the expectation that the Tories would strengthen their grip on the Commons. Jittery Jezza, I’m told, confided to aides shortly before the polls closed that he anticipated a Tory majority of 37 seats.

Before packing her boots for Switzerland this summer, May urged others not to follow in her Welsh footsteps. Hearing a guest at a drinks party say that he intended to go trekking in Snowdonia, where she hatched her election plot, May advised drily, “Try not to make any plans while you’re there.” The PM flying to the land of Heidi smacks of an escape when cabinet wannabes are in hot pursuit.

The Billy Bunterish Tory hereditary peer Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith – the 2nd Baron “Tom” Strathclyde – possesses a name and title so grand that they are almost too long for a tweet. Strathclyde is a senior adviser to a developer working on the £9bn Battersea Power Station project that is pleading poverty to cut the number of affordable homes it plans to build by 40 per cent. Equally contentious is a “since leaving politics” section in his corporate bio. The peer is a regular speaker in the Lords, voting 14 times by my snout’s count against strengthening affordable housing in law. That’s what I call a coincidence.

She was a “senior Downing Street source” in the Telegraph and a “senior government source” on Sky and in the Mail. The BBC “understood” that it should dodge attribution. I can reveal that the source of the stories that Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain has been postponed until next year was the loose-lipped May. Stern zip-it lectures to cabinet colleagues fall on deaf ears when the Prime Minister inadvertently makes news.

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

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This article appears in the 19 Jul 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder