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28 November 2018

Commons Confidential: May’s “economic shit cliff”

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Parliament’s subsidised bars and restaurants are a fave target of the shadowy, misnamed TaxPayers’ Alliance, long considered an opaque front for wealthy tax-dodgers. Earlier this year cocksure TPA hireling James Price criticised the cost to the taxpayer of feta salads and venison moussaka. So imagine the disquiet over Price quitting the Tufton Street madrasa to stroll into the club – on the public payroll he supposedly despises – as bag carrier for the other place’s Tory leader, Natalie Evans. Preening Price isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last, public sector-loathing TPA fanatic to land a plum earner under the Conservatives at the “cough” taxpayers’ expense. Do as I say, not as I do.

Brexit mannequin Stephen Barclay, a minister so unimaginative he chose to work for the bank sharing his surname, was close to a diplomatic incident in his old health post. Outside a BBC studio an aide was overheard snorting “a German” when Barclay couldn’t identify a European journalist on the TV monitor. Confining clueless Barclay to an unused ceremonial role would be the safest option.

Downing Street’s increasingly frantic Brextremist spinner Robbie Gibb, a BBC recruit disproving myths that the broadcaster is a left-wing Remainiac hotbed, is alienating civil servants. My Whitehall snout accused Gibb of crossing a political line by seeking to lasso mini mandarins into his Save Theresa campaign. His prediction that Britain will fall off an “economic shit cliff” when MPs reject her Brexit plan is an attempt to bounce faint hearts into backing her in a swift rerun. Downing Street rules out a second vote for 46 million plebs, but not for 650 MPs.

Largely slipping under the radar was Siobhan Benita’s selection as the Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate to challenge Sadiq Khan in 2020. Six years ago, as an independent she finished a credible fifth – fewer than 8,000 votes behind her new party. My informant whispers that Benita will be slotted into a winnable Westminster seat. She lives in south-west London, where Zac Goldsmith’s 45-vote majority in Richmond Park is vulnerable.

Bids to play the women’s parliamentary football team flooded in and Radio 5 Live asked to commentate on a game after referee John Bercow yellow-carded MPs Hannah Bardell, Lou Haigh, Tracey Crouch, Steph Peacock and Alison McGovern over a kickabout in the Commons chamber. From sick as a parrot to over the moon and other footballing clichés.

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Corbyn peer Martha Osamor finally takes her seat on 4 December, seven months late. Securing permission to include a Nigerian location in her title proved expensive, at £305 a day in lost allowances.

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

This article appears in the 28 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How the Brexit fantasy died