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6 February 2019

Commons Confidential: The election-unready Tories

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Senior Labour figures fear Liverpool Wavertree’s Jewish MP Luciana Berger is on the verge of quitting the party over anti-Semitism. Colleagues claim general secretary Jennie Formby’s performance at the stormy Parliamentary Labour Party meeting on 4 February might prove the tipping point. Berger has endured horrific abuse from racists, with trolls jailed and police protection provided at last autumn’s Labour conference. My high-level sources whisper that Jeremy Corbyn’s office has “priced in” hostile MPs Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith and Gavin Shuker leaving Labour but Berger departing would bring down a “house of pain” on the leader.

A Tory snout fears Conservative Campaign Headquarters couldn’t run a bath, never mind a snap general election. The informant reported panic after party panjandrums discovered that Corbyn’s Labour and Vince Cable’s Lib Dems had booked Royal Mail slots in April. Fears their rivals were on a war footing subsided only when it dawned that the deliveries are for 2 May council contests. The next Tory election campaign may be the worst since the last.

Blundering Labour backbencher Adrian Bailey inadvertently erased what remained of his party’s faint hope of wooing the DUP from the Tories. The West Bromwich West wordsmith enraged Unionist MP Jim Shannon by confusing the DWP and DUP during a debate on benefit cuts. Bailey’s instant apology for a “Freudian slip” failed to pacify the colouring Orangeman. An order from Ipsa for the Strangford slugger to repay £13,925.86 mileage may have left the DUP’s Westminster health spokesman permanently touchy at any mention of the DWP, a Whitehall department ruthlessly punishing claimant errors.

Left-winger Dave Ward’s CWU posties are to cease delivering to the Vauxhall constituency party of Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Labour best friend, Kate Hoey. The communications union insists it’s refocusing resources on marginal seats. So the cheques lost in the post are nothing to do with Hoey sipping champagne at a Gatsby party in Brexit City slicker Rees-Smug’s £6m Westminster town house.

Foot-in-mouth Shaun Bailey’s back catalogue of spite, bigotry and prejudice confirms Evening Standard editor George Osborne’s protégé as the perfect Conservative London mayoral candidate… for Sadiq Khan. Not that Labour’s City Hall incumbent is leaving anything to chance. Planning’s started for the May 2020 contest, with Khan’s team proposing a £2m campaign, more than double his spending in 2016. Labour HQ won’t pay ball.

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

This article appears in the 06 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Broken Europe