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No 10 advisers look to Truss

Your weekly pick of the gossip from Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Boris Johnson’s hollow victory is eroding confidence in the Prime Minister within Downing Street, despite the public bluster of the lying lawbreaker’s loyal ministers. Prominent advisers in the No 10 team, I’m told, have discussed his fall and agreed to campaign for Liz Truss as the successor if or when “Big Dog” is put down. The Foreign Secretary is considered “mouldable” by Tory apparatchiks hoping to cross over into a new regime. Bad blood with the openly disloyal neighbour next door rules out the nomination of Rishi Sunak as crown prince. Johnson can’t hear his Chancellor’s name without grimacing.

The Tory MP told by government whips to stay away from parliament after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and other sexual offences, then bailed, was allowed to vote by proxy on 6 June. He endorsed Johnson, one of the unnamed MP’s closest colleagues whispered. The PM must be very grateful for his continued support.

Snooty Edward Leigh, a Johnson apologist so unbearably grand he could make Jacob Rees-Mogg feel common, considers himself a student of parliament, yet there are glaring gaps in the Tory MP’s knowledge. Filling his plate in the Members’ Dining Room on the night of the big vote, Leigh asked a man standing near the buffet in the Commons restaurant to fetch him a knife and fork. Since leaving school at 15 the Lord Speaker, who’d popped along the corridor for dinner, has had many jobs – factory worker, teacher, MP, whip, select committee chair – but until that moment John McFall, Baron McFall of Alcluith, had never previously been mistaken for a waiter.

Blairite ultras war-gaming in Westminster for life after Keir Starmer devised a cunning plan reminiscent of First World War generals sending masses of troops over the top into machine-gun fire. The retro strategists believe the left requires another pounding to prove it has been routed in Labour constituencies as well as in parliament, and that it would be smart to put Richard Burgon or Zarah Sultana – both prominent left-wing MPs – on the ballot, to prove the party has fundamentally changed. Wiser heads recall that this theory was tested to destruction in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was gifted nominations to “encourage debate”.

Bustling into my old school in South Shields for a lecture by Hillary Clinton, local MP Emma Lewell-Buck absent-mindedly asked the first person she noticed where the toilets were. The man-mountain dressed in black and talking into his sleeve with an American accent replied that he didn’t know. There is some information the US secret service doesn’t know, or refuses to divulge. The former secretary of state and presidential candidate, by the way, is no fan of vinegar on chips. She expressed distaste for the malty dressing when host David Miliband took the Ivy League graduate to a seaside chippy.

[See also: Sue Gray’s last hurrah]

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This article appears in the 08 Jun 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Marked Man