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4 July 2018

Commons Confidential: As the Tory civil war rages, who’s looking to jump ship?

Your weekly dose of gossip from Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

With Tory civil war raging in the Commons, the military figure of Lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith is the latest Brextremist commander to be spotted seeking sanctuary over in the Lords. Peers are the Remain army’s Private Godfreys, rather than Rambos, so bars that end of parliament are no-fire zones. My snout watched the former Scots Guard nibbling a bag of Salty Dog crisps. When the cabinet quitter’s Chingford majority is down to a mere 2,438 it would be no great surprise should IDS occasionally contemplate swapping green for burgundy benches at the next election. Michael Fallon was also on parade in the watering hole. The one-time defence secretary with wandering hands, and the retired army officer, manoeuvred to avoid each other. The Tories march out of step.

Never a man to be beaten, at least since lawless coppers battered him in the back of a police van during the miners’ strike, Labour chair Ian Lavery is determined Labour Live will return bigger and better next year after mixed reviews for last month’s JezFest. The holes included Bernie Sanders, the Jeremy Corbyn of the US left, after initial hopes he’d fly over to speak. One idea is to stage regional concerts and debates to reach voters outside London. Len McCluskey’s Unite ice cream van could be busy.

Never the sharpest pencil in the case, Liz Truss. I hear the cabinet joker apologised personally to Michael Gove for clumsy digs about stoves in her recent speech at the London School of Economics. The Truss explanation – her remarks were cleared by the Treasury – prompted an audible “Doh!” from Gove as he described Chancellor Philip Hammond as his greatest enemy. The heart of Remain loved her taking the Mickey.

Legal letters are flying since the Gay Hussar locked its doors after 65 years. Martin Rowson’s demanding the return of his caricatures on the wall of past habitués including Michael Foot and Andrew Neil. Malaysian owner Corus is desperate to keep the valuable sketches despite shutting the leftie restaurant – agreeing to keep them safe in Milton Keynes rather than Kuala Lumpur until the strife’s resolved. The battle will determine if the cartoonist’s pen is mightier than the corporate sword.

Divisions are fun for Labour MP Jess Phillips since the runway runaway Foreign Secretary fled the Heathrow vote. The Brummie bruiser insisted to tellers that she was really Boris Johnson. The lie-ability coward will never fully escape the mockery.

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Black Rod had a quiet word in the ear of a Labour peer accused, I’m reliably informed, of rudeness to Lords staff. Whatever happened to solidarity with the workers? 

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This article appears in the 04 Jul 2018 issue of the New Statesman, England in the age of Brexit