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10 May 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:22pm

Commons Confidential: The Conservatives seek revenge with a plot to make Corbyn pay

Your weekly dose of gossip from Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The formidable Labour MP Jess Phillips is demanding that new party general secretary Jennie Formby urgently overhauls the party’s handling of witnesses in disciplinary hearings after gross insensitivity towards Ruth Smeeth. Phillips, the women’s PLP chair, is furious the abused Jewish MP was advised to organise her own security against protesters and then required to be in the same room as heckler Marc Wadsworth. With a bigger demo anticipated when Ken “Hitler” Livingstone turns up, and serious problems ahead if female witnesses are seated near alleged sexual harassers, Phillips wants a witness protection scheme. Formby has her work cut out improving the system and accelerating justice.

Vengeful Tories are hunting for a careless-fingered Labour target to sue. They scent blood after word reached the Conservative benches that Jeremy Corbyn received more than £30,000 in undisclosed damages and costs from Ben Bradley over the Tory vice chair’s defamatory spy smear Tweet. Cross Cons accuse Comrade Corb of plotting to bankrupt Bradley and force a by-election after rejecting smaller offers. The Labour leader donated the dosh to a food bank and homeless charity in marginal Mansfield. What goes around comes around, growled a Tory snout with a lawyer on call.

Brevity’s the new loquacity for Conor McGinn, born with the gift of the gab in County Armagh. The St Helens MP’s begging letter to James Brokenshire on his return as Local Government Secretary was eloquently brief: “Dear James, Congratulations on your new appointment and it is very good to see you back in the cabinet. Can St Helens Council please have some money? Best wishes, Conor.” Brokenshire’s reply to the Labour lip might prove even shorter: “No.”

The death of former Leominster MP Peter Temple-Morris, a One Nation Tory who defected to New Labour during the Blair era, reminded an old hand that the switch greatly inconvenienced his opposite number John McWilliam. When “Temple of Doom” crossed the floor, the garrulous Blaydon Labour MP grumbled: “What’s the bloody use of a pair in my own party?” None, it transpired.

McGinn’s suspended verbosity triggered former comrade Michael Dugher to recall a door-off with the DUP’s Ian “Baby Doc” Paisley outside the Mercury Music Awards in London. Paisley and McGinn, the son of a Sinn Fein councillor, waited to see who’d surrender first and open a cab door. Dugher, the head of UK Music since quitting parliament in 2017, leant over to break the deadlock with a sarky “Jesus! I’ll get the door, shall I?” Taxi etiquette was an oversight in the Good Friday Agreement.

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This article appears in the 10 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Israel vs Iran