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1 February 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:26pm

Commons Confidential: Tories take Kremlin gold

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The BBC isn’t the only broadcaster in a noisy pay equality war. Labour MPs are grumbling loudly after discovering Conservatives are paid more Kremlin gold for appearing on Russia Today. Derby North firebrand Chris Williamson, a Corbynista who quit Jeremy’s front bench because it wasn’t Corbynista enough, is furious he and comrades were paid £500 per appearance, but RT, as the Moscow propaganda machine likes to style itself to confuse the unsuspecting, bunged £750 a shout to Tories such as Nigel Evans and David TC Davies. Williamson informed this column he uses the TV fees to travel the country building socialism. The vegan bricklayer would construct a stronger case on the higher, Conservative rate. Next time Russia Today rings the Labour diehard he will, for the first time in his life, demand to be treated like a Tory.

Distressing scenes in parliament when ranting Tory peer Emma Nicholson assailed the author of an unflattering biography of the late Commons speaker George “order, order” Thomas. The baroness berated author Martin Shipton, accusing him of smearing a great friend of her father whom she’d known since the age of ten. Shipton’s Political Chameleon includes child sex abuse allegations against Thomas and portrays as a “sycophant supreme” the one-time Welsh Labour left-winger who adored Maggie Thatcher and died Viscount Tonypandy in 1997. Shipton was spared a heavier handbagging by Cardiff West peacemaker Kevin Brennan ushering him away to safety.

Tommy McAvoy’s election as opposition chief whip in the Lords reunites the former factory storeman with Nick Brown, Labour’s knuckles in the Commons. The pair were a formidable duo in the green carpeted end of the building before McAvoy was draped in ermine. One former charge recalled that it was always offensive charm rather than a charm offensive.

Parliament’s great Blue Badge guides’ revolt is growing, with most of the 150 attendants fighting the chop now waving letters of support from local MPs. My free advice to axeman-in-chief Paul Beresford, the Tory chair of the administration committee, is not to ask for directions. He’ll be pointed to the river with advice to jump.

In her office, Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the Lords, keeps a photo of early dancing days in an Ivy Travers talented tiny tots ensemble. She’ll need the fancy footwork on the Brexit bill.

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Ken Clarke observed in Speaker’s House that Europe is attractive to refugees and impoverished Africans. “I would be on my way,” mused the Tory Europhile, “if I was a Somalian.” Brextremists would prefer to send him to Mogadishu. 

This article appears in the 31 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Migration