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18 July 2018updated 19 Jul 2018 9:37am

Commons Confidential: Why Boris Johnson is likely to be left disappointed by coup against May

Your weekly dose of gossip from Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Blond plotter Boris Johnson’s naked ambition remains unclothed. Tory MPs whisper that the former foreign secretary is hatching a coup against Theresa May to install himself as Prime Brexiteer. The word in Westminster is that Johnson was dismayed to discover he lacks the 48 MPs required to trigger an immediate ballot, never mind 159 to guarantee victory, so he is sounding out potential revolters. The gargantuan ego may be as disappointed as he was two years ago, when Michael Gove’s treachery kiboshed his hopes. Johnson is widely described by Tories as yesterday’s man. Perhaps nobody’s told him.

What else did Donald Trump vent about May, Johnson, Brexit and Britain? Walls have ears. My radar-lugged snout couldn’t avoid overhearing the Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, speaking loudly into his phone as he waited near the children’s play area in Brussels Midi for the 14.56 Eurostar back to London after an interview with the US president. “If only we could write,” exclaimed Newton Dunn excitedly into the mobile, “what he said off the record!” What the paper did publish was explosive. Trump’s unprinted views must be thermonuclear.

Slow on the uptake is sexually explicit Andrew “Daddy” Griffiths, forced to quit as small business minister over 2,000 messages to a couple of women. MPs watching Griffiths texting like crazy while he queued to vote concluded that he’s addicted to his phone and oblivious to a bad look.

Clacton thespian Giles Watling’s past caught up on a culture committee visit to Sunderland. Staff in the city’s Empire Theatre recognised the MP as a member of the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Best known as vicar Oswald in Carla Lane’s Bread, Watling toured in the camp comedy with Jason Donovan. He should be honoured. Few Conservatives are embraced in Sunderland.

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t twitch a muscle at the Durham Miners’ Gala when US socialist Bernie Sanders declared in a filmed solidarity message that the, ahem, “fossil fuel industry” is destroying the planet. What did he think they mined – marble? Durham miners’ leader Alan Cummings suggested unconvincingly that Sanders was attacking fracking, not coal. Labour chair and former pitman Ian Lavery bluntly declared the off-message Vermont senator was wrong. Next year’s filmed greetings will be vetted in advance.

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Tom Watson’s quip about Johnson joining a new show called Love Yourself Island prompted tea room talk of who’d go on reality TV if the price was right. Yorkshire heavyweight Alec Shelbrooke, a Tory with a fuller figure, is game. “For Love Handles Island maybe,” he volunteered.

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This article appears in the 18 Jul 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump-Putin pact