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8 March 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:25pm

Commons Confidential: Is Jeremy Hunt preparing to check out from his role in the cabinet?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

A prized snout whispered that Jeremy Hunt assured Theresa May during January’s botched cabinet reshuffle that he’d be prepared to check out quietly this summer if the PM spared him. The reprieved un-healthy secretary departed No 10 with social care in his doctor’s bag, rather than a P45. The clock’s ticking, however, on the cabinet bed blocker.

Imagine if Ukip’s purple rage were found to have held a private Brextremist meeting in London’s Russian Embassy, or Tory Trumpists had assembled in the official London residence of US ambassador Woody Johnson to talk post-EU trade deals. Remainers would create merry hell, accusing Leavers of secretly conspiring with foreign powers to undermine Britain. So the UK Europhile army’s use of Europe House, the London outpost of the European Commission, for a cloak-and-dagger conclave on “Where Next for Brexit?” probably wasn’t the smartest choice. The list of invitees included Gina Miller, Peter Mandelson, Andrew Adonis, AC Grayling, Alastair Campbell, Peter Kellner, Ros Altmann, Patience Wheatcroft, Caroline Lucas, Stephen Gethins and Tom Brake. I wonder if those who did attend made their excuses and left by the back door.

Chris Grayling’s big new initiative is Hedgehog Highways for Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. MPs were surprised to open epistles from the Transport Secretary urging them to cut holes in garden fences as snow was grinding Britain to a halt. Prickly “failing” Grayling’s timing was as impeccable as ever.

Is that occasional Marxist, John McDonnell, mellowing? Labour’s teak-tough shadow chancellor slipped a book to deputy Peter Dowd. The tome by Roman orator Cicero, How to Win an Argument: an Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion, was inscribed with a comradely “To Peter, the Cicero of the Shadow Treasury Team. Best Wishes, John.” Maybe McDonnell has run out of copies of Mao’s Little Red Book to distribute, George Osborne having vanished with his last edition.

Deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle has expanded his political menagerie. To the Rottweiler with a great clunking paw called Gordon (Brown) and snappy terrier Betty (Boothroyd) is added Boris, an African grey parrot. Hoyle has taught the noisy bird to squawk “soon be Christmas”, which, even in March, is truer than professional liar Johnson’s Brexit guff about how life would be spiffing outside
the EU.

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Tram spotter Iain Stewart, chair of the all-party light rail group and a Tory member of the transport committee, learned the painful way why it’s advisable to hold on tight. I’m told the Milton Keynes South MP broke his wrist on a delegation to Germany. 

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This article appears in the 07 Mar 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The new cold war