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30 May 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:38am

Commons Confidential: The cost of Tommy Two Dinners’ diet

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

How much the Brextremists’ trade fantasies – misbelieving that the world outside Europe is straining to gift the UK sweetheart deals – are the invention of fevered fanatics was observed during a business mission in China by former Labour trade and industry minister Gerry Sutcliffe. China Daily, the country’s biggest English-language newspaper, fawned over German chancellor Angela Merkel’s 11th visit. The next day it hailed France’s Emmanuel Macron, with China’s President Xi Jinping welcoming closer ties with a united Europe. Brexit Britain? Barely a mention.

Theresa May has visited China, the UK’s second largest non-European trading partner, just once. Merkel, by the way, met the wives of two jailed human rights lawyers in Beijing. The desperate May was praised in China for overlooking abuses earlier this year on her solitary visit.

The incredible shrinking Tom Watson, a shadow of his former self since shedding six stone on a strict diet, was a founder member of the Goulash Co-operative bidding to save London’s Gay Hussar, a Soho restaurant favoured by lefties. Among the excuses given by its Malaysian owners for last orders on 21 June is a sharp fall in boozy lunches. Watson, who quit the peppery co-op on election as Labour’s deputy leader, was dubbed “Tommy Two Dinners” when a political heavyweight for consuming two stodgy three-course meals with Bull’s Blood and slivovitz in the Gay Hussar on the same day. Unkind comrades talk of asking him to launch a one-man rescue operation.

Parliamentary pigeon racing is returning after a 90-year roost. The revived Commons vs Lords fly-off will see MPs and peers sponsor birds, rather than enter their own, when these days few or none are pigeon fanciers with a loft. Sensibly, the birds will be released at Bletchley Park rather than outside the members’ entrance where the baskets were last opened in 1928 by Tory MP Sir Cooper Rawson. Feathers would fly if hawks keeping parliament’s roofs pigeon-free took down a racer.

Overseas journalists in the London-based Foreign Press Association report a surge in Brexit briefings from No 10 and the Brexit department. “There’s a debate among the European correspondents about whether it’s still worth going,” grumbled my continental snout, “when they never tell us anything worthwhile.” British scribblers think the same. Welcome to the club.

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Protection didn’t start at home for Chatham House when attorney general Jeremy Wright delivered a speech on cyber wars at the smug talking shop. Hacks logging on to the internet received the warning “weak security”. 

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

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This article appears in the 30 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, God isn’t dead