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5 April 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:39am

Commons Confidential: Is Brexit’s latest victim the unstable bromance of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove?

Your weekly dose of gossip from Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

TV crews and press photographers outside Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington home during the anti-Semitism row noticed they themselves were under surveillance. Leaning out of an upstairs window to film the media pack on a camera phone was Laura the lioness, the Labour leader’s fiercely protective wife. She occasionally records the doorstep scrum, I’m told, to discourage bad behaviour and secure evidence of hubby’s innocence should there be a repeat of the painful occasion his car crushed a BBC cameraman’s foot. The jostling hacks fear they’ll star as villains in a homemade Corbyn: the Movie.

The latest victim of Brexit contortions is the unstable friendship of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. The worst best chums have fallen out again, whispered a Tory snout, and the bromance is stuck in grumpy middle age. It’s the stuff of Mills & Boon. The Europhobic love birds were inseparable Eurosceptics during the referendum before Gove divorced Johnson to try to grab the Tory crown for himself. The subsequent rapprochement is over as rival Brextremists wrestle over compromises with the EU. Gove letting Johnson know he won’t support him to succeed Theresa May can’t have helped.

Forwarded to me was this cash appeal to deep-pocketed Labour donors from campaign co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne ahead of May’s council contests. It hasn’t exactly aged well: “Your donation of £500 will fund targeted Facebook adverts… Facebook advertising was one of the great successes of our 2017 general election campaign…It’s groundbreaking, innovative and it works.” Corbyn’s shut his personal Facebook account and billionaire chief executive Mark Zuckerberg runs scared of questions from MPs on myriad abuses. Rattling tins for Facebook isn’t the party’s most popular charity in town.

The shadowy Legatum Institute is relaunching with a dinner this month in parliament’s Churchill Room. Hosted by Tory peer Philippa Stroud, one Arthur Brooks will sing for his supper. He’s president of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, financed in part by the scary Koch brothers. His “pathways from poverty to prosperity” specifically exclude a higher minimum wage, workers’ rights and stronger trade unions. My snouts shall be
in attendance.

One of Iain McNicol’s final acts as general secretary was to approve a staffing increase from four to six in a reformed Labour attack unit dubbed Excalibur II. It collated Russian donations of £3m+ used to expose Conservative hypocrisy over oligarchs. McNicol was overheard musing that his successor, Jennie Formby, will enjoy the credit. It was ever thus. 

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This article appears in the 04 Apr 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Delusions of empire