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18 September 2019

Commons Confidential: Knitted John Bercow dolls for superfans

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Wounded Nigel Farage is considering political blackmail after a pot and kettle snub from congenital liar Boris Johnson: the PM deployed a Downing Street assassin to shoot down his right-wing rival as not a “fit and proper person” to be near government. The Brexit Party boss, desperate for an electoral pact with his old party, is privately threatening to stand high-profile candidates to take enough votes to topple Johnson in Uxbridge, where the Tory majority is a vulnerable 5,034, and Chingford, where Iain Duncan Smith is on an endangered 2,438. No 10 is so aware of the risk, the word oop north is that ultra-safe East Yorkshire, currently occupied by drum-playing septuagenarian Greg Knight, is earmarked as a Johnson bolt-hole.


Tory Remainiac George Osborne was a surprise mingler with Farage, Arron Banks and IDS at a bash thrown by Michael Ashcroft for wife Susi’s 70th birthday. The billionaire Brextremist mocked the former chancellor’s chum, David Cameron, with an indecent pig’s head tale in a rude biography. Osborne has turned a page now that Cameron’s own memoirs are out. A snout grunted that he’s hedging his bets, should Ashcroft buy a stake in the Evening Standard.


Lib Dem spinners puzzling over how to smuggle Tory defector Sam Gyimah unseen past photographers before his unveiling by Jo Swinson devised a backhanded ruse. No household face, the recruit was hidden in plain sight by walking him undetected through the conference hall. Conservative and Labour MPs must negotiate a written test and formal interview to be Lib Dem candidates. With Swinson eager to attract others, the pass rate is likely to top North Korea’s 99.98 per cent election turnout.

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Nobody will miss John Bercow more than Paula Sherriff. So smitten was the Commons Speaker’s superfan that Labour frontbencher Carolyn “needles” Harris knitted a mini Speaker doll for the doe-eyed Dewsbury MP. Onlookers feared the serjeant-at-arms would be called when she hugged Bercow lingeringly after prorogation. Sherriff giggled that she’d rejoin the queue to bid farewell a second time.


In the Speaker’s race, Labour MP Chris Bryant was questioned by a Tory on bringing back the wig. Asked if he wanted a scar from an operation on the back of his head covered, Bryant declared he’d wear the hairpiece on ceremonial occasions. Harriet Harman is accused of wearing pearls to appeal to the Conservative county set.


Far-right marauders are screaming “this pub is ours” to intimidate politicos and hacks drinking in St Stephen’s Tavern opposite parliament. Time for the pub and cops to take back control? l


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

This article appears in the 06 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Out of control