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Tories fear a kamikaze election

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Keir Starmer pressed the red button and excitable Tories flapped that Boris Johnson might call a snap election. Going to the polls after 500 council seat losses would be courageous of the Prime Minister, topping the Labour leader’s bold vow to quit if Durham plod fine him over a beer. The Cons’ nerves were smoothed by assurances that a potentially kamikaze contest is impossible. The man who would mastermind Johnson’s campaign, Lynton Crosby’s protégé Isaac Levido, is down under where he’s busy running Scott Morrison’s bid to be re-elected prime minister of Australia. The bad news for Johnson is that Labor’s Anthony Albanese is in with a shout of supplanting Morrison.

Posturing as a Starmer-esque “Mr Rules” who’d restore purpose and probity amid Johnson’s chaos and incompetence, Jeremy Hunt should be wary as his disciples whisper the saviour’s strengths into Commons tea-room ears. My snout muttered that No 10 has asked MPs to pretend to be open to the pitch and then report back. They call it “loyal disloyalty”.

What has Dominic Raab done to annoy an ailing monarch? The Lord Chancellor, Lord Dilhorne, delivered the Queen’s Speech in 1963 on the last occasion she was unable to perform the ceremonial duty, while she was pregnant with her fourth child, Edward. Colleagues of Raab, an In-Justice Secretary who also operates as Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister, mused that the Queen was unhappy the minister with more titles than Angela Rayner was part of the cabinet cabal that advised her to unlawfully prorogue parliament in the 2019 Johnson-attempted coup. The real answer is that she probably preferred to give a day out to her pensioner son and heir.

An eye for a few extra quid has the former Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey. Stripped of the whip over Europe by his frenemy Boris Johnson, then parachuted into the Lords by the same PM, Baron Vaizey of Didcot inherited second-hand robes purchased by his late father, the Labour life peer John Vaizey. Missing the deadline to apply for a ticket to sit in the unelected chamber to hear Charlie reading a speech for Betty written by Johnson, Vaizey Jr offered to rent the clobber for the day to a fellow peer. Haggling started on a price below the £140 plus VAT charged by the official supplier. “Damn,” cried Lord of the Rag Trade on the morning of the big day, “I forgot to clinch the deal.” Business acumen like that is surely worth a job in the Treasury.

Warrior woman Stella Creasy’s feeling unloved by the leader of the opposition’s office as she prepares to send in the mums. The Walthamstow MP is launching MotheRed, a drive for more mams to be selected as Labour candidates. There are grants of up to £2,000 each for 20 women selected by a panel stretching from the Socialist Campaign Group’s fiery Zarah Sultana on the left to the party establishment figure Cherie Blair. Starmer’s team’s accused of being another boy’s club.

Nato isn’t the only issue that Corbynite MPs face a battle with Starmer over. The lefties must decide whether to back a “Justice for Jeremy” movement demanding September’s Liverpool conference revise party rules so the Islington One may seek reselection. Suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party currently leaves him ineligible for a trigger ballot and thus readoption. Corbyn’s a war on many fronts.

Posing with a horse in a stable earned the Covid-rule breaker Matt Hancock a fresh nickname: national stud.

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