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9 October 2019

Commons Confidential: Jacob Rees-Mogg goes grime

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Ali vs Frazier’s “Thriller in Manila” will resemble a fun fight now Boris “The Eton Lip” Johnson and Jeremy “Pretty Boy” Corbyn’s corners have told broadcasters the political heavyweights want to go head-to-head, live on TV, in the election ring. The Rumble in Westminster is a popcorn-tastic prospect though details, including the number of bouts, are yet to be finalised.

My snout holding the mic whispered that other boxers, particularly the Lib Dems and SNP, are trying to muscle in Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon, with some legitimacy when another hung parliament is a decent bet. Negotiations cover a full undercard including big money Saj “The Banker” Javid vs John “Mac the Knife” McDonnell in a battle of the chancellors.

The bloodiest scrap, however, is the broadcasters’ brawl. Rather than repeating 2010’s successful joint promotion, big boys at the BBC and ITV are trying to flatten rivals. Sky News and scufflers at Channels 4 and 5 are throwing punches back. It’s gloriously dirty. Queensberry rules don’t apply in television.

The contest is hotting up to succeed John Bercow as Commons Speaker. Labour grand dame Margaret Beckett was overheard musing about feminista Harriet Harman’s main pitch that the next occupant of the big chair must be a sister. Beckett noted that this didn’t seem to apply in 2009 when HH failed to vote for Beckett, who was the only Labour woman in that year’s Speaker tournament. The same occurred in Labour’s 1994 leadership ballot, Harman backing Mr Tony Blair over Mrs Beckett. The party’s two former acting leaders, pondered Beckett aloud, had much in common. “We both,” she said, “vote for who we consider the best person for the job.”

Try to get your head around this: Edwardian pastiche Jacob Rees-Mogg sang the “Eton Boating Song” to a Stormzy soundtrack on a Tory MPs’ karaoke night. Without psychedelic drugs the performance could only be topped by the grime star rapping “Fuck the government and fuck Boris” in a three-piece suit to a melody of “Jolly boating weather/And a hay harvest breeze”.

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The ears of that patriarch of the Johnson clan, Stanley, must have burned when wayward seed Boris had a pop at Extinction Rebellion protesters. An eagle-eyed snout spotted a sticker with the eco movement’s hourglass logo on the back of père’s mobile phone. Like father unlike son.

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On the subject of mobiles a pink iPhone and pair of Hugo Boss sunglasses found on the opposition green benches were handed into the Labour whips’ office. Nothing’s too good for the workers in Comrade Corbyn’s workerist party.

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

This article appears in the 09 Oct 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The fantasy of global Britain