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13 February 2019

Commons Confidential: The Labour plotters’ table

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Brextremist bore Peter Bone’s tea room hissy fit during a discussion of the details of Theresa May’s bad plan confirmed that leaving is a religion for the headbangers’ headbanger. As Tory colleagues discussed trade and the backstop, Bone-head startled MPs sitting nearby by raising his arms in the air and wailing: “I don’t care. I don’t care. I just want to leave.” That’s another seat booked in hell’s special place.

Labour’s potential leavers have started sitting together in the members’ dining room. My snout’s clocked Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger and, a new name this, Ann Coffey at a plotters’ table. Stockport MP Coffey co-tabled the 2016 no confidence motion, ultimately triggering a leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn. Maybe she wanted to discuss the weather.

Abuse is, alas, a daily occupational hazard for MPs. Labour chair Ian Lavery, a burly Northumberland former coal miner representing Wansbeck in his home county, was incensed to be branded a “London-centric fuck pig” by a foul-fingered fool in an intemperate email. The proud son of north-east England angrily replied he wasn’t London-centric. And ignored the harmless copulating porcine jibe.

Theresa May’s Downing Street meetings with trade union leaders were even less productive than first appreciated. I’ve learned Unison’s smiling assassin “Deadly Dave” Prentis broke the ice by asking the PM: “Why are you suddenly negotiating with the people who had a champagne party when you lost by 230 votes, the biggest parliamentary defeat in history?” Desperation is the truthful answer. May grimaced, I’m told, before an automatic switch clicked her back to full Maybot setting.

Bill Cash, a Tory Brextremist cleverer than Bone-head, if as boring, bashfully informed a source who didn’t recognise him at a dinner that he was an MP who’d become important again since Britain voted to leave the EU. There are some things worse than the 2016 referendum result itself.

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Coventry convenor Jim Cunningham, an old factory worker and engineering union activist, is leading a fight to win better holiday pay for Commons staff. The Labour MP’s assembled a cross-party negotiating team to enforce a Dudley council tribunal ruling. Once a shop steward, always a shop steward.

The Mail on Sunday shelled out north of £120,000 to serialise Tom Bower’s rehash of Jeremy Corbyn’s life. The author’s decision to call his blunt hatchet job Dangerous Hero was either gracious or a mistake. Tickled Corbynista MPs immediately adopted the glamorous moniker for their leader.

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

This article appears in the 13 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The revolution that fuelled radical Islam