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31 October 2018

Commons Confidential: The Johnson-Rees-Mogg desperate pact

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

With Boris Johnson’s once bright future fading into history, the desperate Brexiteer is swallowing his pride to try to revive his leadership dreams. Tories mutter that the blond deceiver’s camp is making discreet overtures to Jacob Rees-Mogg. The chancellorship is the bait for the double-breasted Old Etonian backing the bumbling Old Etonian. Johnson’s quest for sufficient support in parliament to be on a shortlist of two candidates put before Tory members raises the usual questions about incompetency. MP Ian Lucas was surprised to encounter a grinning Johnson waving enthusiastically on the Westminster Tube station escalator. Lucas, who’d never spoken to Johnson, didn’t have the heart to say he’s Labour, so unable to vote in a Conservative contest.

DUP MPs threatening only days before to wreck the Budget were all over the Chancellor like a rash after Spendthrift Phil ladled £972m on Northern Ireland in the Bung Parliament. My snout within earshot of a noisy Labour lot sitting behind DUP deputy Nigel Dodds overheard the party’s Ulster spokesman, Stephen Pound, tease the austere Unionist: “I hope he cleared that with you.” Frontbencher Kevin Brennan quipped: “I bet Nigel wrote it.” Dodds’s beatific smile was the face of a Brexit blackmailer taking delivery of the latest ransom instalment.

Liberal Democrats report Layla Moran’s on the rubber tofu circuit to succeed Vince Cable. Moran’s education brief is a ticket to travel and she’s popped up recently in a string of towns and cities, including Bath, Cambridge and Leamington Spa. The new Oxford MP’s hands weren’t dirtied by the ConDem coalition. She’s now trying to show rivals a clean pair of heels.

Labour pairing whip Mark Tami enjoyed a spectacular promotion for one evening only, billed as PM instead of a humble MP. The glamour of the unexpected elevation at a Flintshire pest control dinner topped the Northern Ireland meeting inaccurately listing him as the Reverend Tami. Whips do the devil’s work, not the lord’s.

Tories claim speaker wannabe Harriet Harman’s asked newly elected Labour women why she never sees them at PLP meetings. True or apocryphal, Harman faces sisterly competition whenever John Bercow hangs up his gown. The field’s fast becoming crowded. Labour MPs whisper Meg Hillier’s putting out feelers and Cons mumble Nicky Morgan’s interested. Soon it’ll be quicker listing those ruling themselves out.

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Lessons on how to do yoga while sitting in a chair are the latest stress-busters offered to parliament’s members and staff. The 45-minute sessions in Millbank House don’t involve standing up, let alone removing clothing. More lazy pooch than downward dog.

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

This article appears in the 31 Oct 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Great War’s long shadow