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28 July 2021

Commons Confidential: Carrie Antoinette

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.  

By Kevin Maguire

Should the writing prove to be on the wall for dazed Dan Rosenfield, the No 10 chief of staff regularly reading his political obituary, few tears will be shed by Team Gordon Brown.

Losing allies and alienating toilers in Downing Street with his distant demeanour, the putative organiser appointed to bring stability to Boris Johnson’s chaotic regime is, in the football speak he uses, losing heavily to a Carrie Antoinette United captained by the Prime Minister’s latest wife.

The Gordon gang are savouring a touch of Schadenfreude. They were told that, when Rosenfield was a Treasury civil servant during Brown’s chancellorship, members of the team he worked with had reduced the print size of documents to make them harder to read.

So numerous are the pieces predicting the unloved chief of staff’s demise that he can’t miss them all. Including this one.

 

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He may have escaped the Greensill inquiry with the official equivalent of a slap on the wrist from a wet lettuce leaf, but David Cameron didn’t emerge so lightly from a brush with Ronnie Corbett. The 5ft 1in comedian never looked up to Dodgy Dave after an encounter in No 10.

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In a forthcoming book Star Turns, the author and former Telegraph journalist Tim Walker recalls how Corbett disapprovingly regarded Cameron as unimpressive and “too eager to please” at a Downing Street reception that was given in order to enlist opponents of Scottish independence.

The final half of the Two Ronnies died in 2016, a year that Walker, who was briefly a Liberal Democrat candidate in Canterbury at the last general election, describes as the loss of innocence and the start of a harsher, less humorous era with Brexit.

 

The latest theory from MPs scratching their heads about how CCTV was inside Covid lothario Matt Hancock’s office is that the ceiling camera was originally outside the door, and only came inside when the office was expanded down the corridor, after which the prying eye was never returned to its original position. The official explanation, when it comes, or rather if it ever comes, might be straight from The Thick of It.

 

Back of the net for Tory MP Damian Green’s garish yellow Czech football shirt, which was a hit at the Latitude festival in Suffolk. A fan in the audience wanted to know if it was the strip in Half Man Half Biscuit’s song “All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit”.

The look was spoiled, mind, by Middle England trousers and shoes. The chuffed MP, who served as first secretary of state under Theresa May, still beamed as if he’d scored the winning penalty in Euro 2020. For England not the Czech Republic, I presume. 

[See also: Boris Johnson’s plans to reform policing are short of funding and ambition]

 

This article appears in the 28 Jul 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Summer special