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30 October 2019

Commons Confidential: Attack of the 50-foot flowers

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Charge of the Light Brigade – or for Labour an El Alamein, with Corbyn emerging as Monty and Johnson the defeated Rommel rather than the Churchill of his fevered imagination. December 2019 would be the accidental election. Snouts in No 10 and the leader of the opposition’s office whispered that their commanders didn’t really want a contest when it would be dark by 5pm. Cock-ups not calculations or conspiracy theories dictate British politics.

My source with the blue rosette grumbled that Johnson was incredibly nervous. In the red corner a comrade muttered about a Labour flop – at least his party would be rid of Corbyn early 2020 rather than 2022. No wonder the SNP and Lib Dems are confident both main parties will lose.

Israel’s ambassador in London, Mark Regev, needs to turn a new page. Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, was touched to be given what the ambassador described as his personal copy of Golda Meir’s autobiography, My Life, with a signed dedication from the diplomat. Until, that is, she told Diane Abbott, who replied: how odd, because she too received from Regev a signed personal copy of the Israeli former PM’s story. Perhaps he likes to read Meir’s book before passing it on and buying a new one to start over. Regev, I’m reliably informed, shrugged as if to say that’s how diplomacy works, when Thornberry raised the duplication.

The People’s Vote pantomime imitating the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front prompted an acquaintance to recall a dinner party invitation to moneybags city PR guru Roland Rudd’s £23m Kensington townhouse.

So cavernous is the entrance hall, the flower vases were taller than the overwhelmed guest. Fearing his £40 floral gift wasn’t up to the job, the visitor pretended his flowers were for the staff and gave them to a uniformed retainer who answered the door. It’s not so much a grass-roots campaign as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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Anti-Brexit and a woman of colour, Gina Miller is used to insults and death threats, yet I hear she’s flabbergasted  that the Sunday Times’s executive editor, Bob Tyrer, defended reactionary columnist Rod Liddle naming her in an attack on Remainer “monkeys” on the grounds that the scribbler uses the slur regularly against groups of people. Bulgarian football fans missed a trick.

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Pocket dynamo Mary Foy won Labour’s City of Durham nomination, where she’ll defend a 12,000 majority, on the equivalent of away goals. The ballot was tied after second preferences and trade unionist Foy edged it with most first-round votes. Wait until VAR is included in Labour’s rule book.

This article appears in the 30 Oct 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Britain alone