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14 November 2018

Commons Confidential: Red Ed plots a comeback

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Ed Miliband is finally ready to serve in a “big job” under Jeremy Corbyn, I’m informed by a very reliable snout. Labour’s former leader, criticised for not publicly condemning the current principal during the summer’s anti-Semitism controversy, is weighing up whether it’s better to jump into the shadow cabinet or wait until the real thing should Labour win a Brexit fallout general election. Timing could be dictated by when Comrade Corbyn wants Red Ed back.

Both Theresa May and Corbyn are speaking at the CBI’s annual business moanathon next week. Conference security will be tight. Islamists and, increasingly, far-right terrorists are a mortal danger. Organisers fear a repeat of 2015’s Leave-inspired incident, in which a couple of spotty Brexit fanatics set up a fake company to gain access and disrupt David Cameron’s speech. Protesters demanding a “proper Brexit” would be shameless.

The House of Commons Commission is a rolling bar brawl since last week’s revelation that it discussed banning booze. Andrea Leadsom’s table insist she’s a peacemaker after Speaker John Bercow’s opening gambit was total prohibition. Tory traditionalist Paul Beresford splutters indignantly on his stool, Labour’s Valerie Vaz wants drinking corked, while deputy speaker Rosie Winterton’s demanding procedures are followed. The lot of them need to go for a drink to calm down.

Royal Mail privatisation continues to dog Vince Cable, charged with selling it on the cheap for £1bn when ConDem business secretary. A company accused of profiteering by flogging prime sites for housing is doing him no favours: the Lib Dem leader is engulfed in a row over plans to shut his constituency’s Hampton sorting office, transferring collections to Ashford almost an hour away by bus. His letter of apology must be lost in the post.

Touching tale from Kindertransport peer Alf Dubs at a humanist remembrance concert. His father, forced to fight for the Germans in the First World War, lifted a ban on his son playing with toy soldiers when the pair were reunited in London after both escaping the Nazis. Unlike the First, the Second was unavoidable with Hitler on the rampage.

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Labour’s shifting alliances see the “Big Four” trade unions Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU now regularly meeting as a “Big Five” with Usdaw to co-ordinate positions and oppose Momentum. The unopposed election of Northern Irishman Paddy Lillis as general secretary moved the shopworkers’ union from the right to the left of the political street. Militant moderates aren’t running so much as a whelk stall. l

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

This article appears in the 14 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How the Brexiteers broke history