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23 May 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:21pm

Commons Confidential: Peter Mandelson’s double trouble

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Suspicions that some Labour Lords view Brexit defeats as a double whammy against Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are reinforced by noisy celebrations in the peers’ guest room, observed by a snout. The wallflower witnessed Roger Liddle, a fanatical Europhile and former Tony Blair adviser, waddle over in high excitement to Peter Mandelson, a one-time Eurocrat, after one of the Tory government’s 15 reverses. “We did it! We beat Corbyn!” exclaimed Baron Liddle loudly as Baron Mandelson punched the air victoriously. Mandelson’s professed aim is to undermine Comrade Corbyn every day. Fighting Brexit’s his two-for-one buy. 


Over in Portcullis House, an informant spied first Frank Field and then Barry Gardiner with an arm in a sling. Is John “Mac the Knife” McDonnell taking his role as Corbyn’s enforcer too seriously?

Talking of McDonnell the shadow chancer of the exchequer was caught cold on radio when grilled about freshly ermined Martha Osamor, mother of the shadow cabinet’s Kate O, who had signed a letter defending Ken Livingstone from anti-Semitism charges. An old hand grumbled that potential peers don’t receive the rigorous scrutiny applied to by-election candidates. Back in 1989 the NEC replaced Osamor Sr with Kate Hoey in Vauxhall. Brexiteer Hoey is now Nigel Farage’s best buddy. The law of unintended consequences.

Mildly eccentric Peter Bottomley (he once threatened to throw a bucket of water over a reporter knocking on his door) is called the “Worthing weathervane” by admiring MPs for a knack of reading the political runes correctly. John Bercow must hope Botters is pointing the wrong way this time, though: he has called for the Speaker to vacate the chair next month.

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The Durham Miners’ Gala waited years for a Labour leader to attend but Corbyn can’t keep away. He’s the star turn again this July, as he was in 2017 and 2016. The solidly working-class bands and banners “Big Meeting” pulls crowds (estimated at 250,000 last year) that dwarf royal weddings. Ed Miliband managed a solitary 2012 visit after Neil Kinnock went in 1989, with John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown never appearing. “We can’t stop him,” whispered one of Corbyn’s office. “The adulation’s a pleasant change to PLP meetings.”

Pity the confused Labour soul who emailed personalised Corbyn congratulations to losing Labour council candidates before minutes later pinging apologies and (correct) commiserations. In pressing the wrong button the technophobe demonstrated the party’s spam is as intimate as a Russian bot.

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

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This article appears in the 23 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Age of the strongman