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Nadine Dorries and the earrings of power

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Blue-on-blue culture warrior Nadine “Mad Nad” Dorries and her hitman special adviser Rob “the Ox” Oxley hope machine-gunning Rishi Sunak will save their jobs if puppet Liz Truss is installed as Boris Johnson’s successor. The string-pulling pair have the subtlety of cartel enforcers. One trembling Tory recalls being advised to call Dorries and apologise when she threatened retribution against him for daring to question a decision in the culture department. “She told me I now knew who had the power,” he whimpered.

Dorries, who once boasted about owning £6,000 diamond earrings, has form using wealth against fellow Conservatives. She denounced David Cameron and George Osborne as “two arrogant posh boys” who didn’t know the price of milk. After Dorries contrasted Sunak’s £3,500 suit with Truss’s £4.50 earrings, an exasperated Tory MP moaned, “Nad’s so mad, next she’ll want Liz to dress like Pat Butcher.”

[ See also: Tory diversity scuppers Labour’s white male hopefuls ]

It was a very different Liz Truss who stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate for Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, in the 2005 general election. Back then, she was Elizabeth, who was happy to boast that Daddy was a Leeds University professor and that Mother was a nurse and teacher – rather than playing down her comfortable middle-class background. “Elizabeth enjoys playing tennis and home improvements, although she is finding time for this scarce during the campaign,” a local website was informed.

Brextremist Remain voter Truss confessed to European Research Group members that she was arm-twisted into backing the pro-EU side in 2016’s referendum by George Osborne’s PowerPoint presentation. Inconveniently for Sunak, his team have found precious few video clips of him campaigning for Brexit during the Leave campaign – enabling Truss apologists to label the former chancellor a shallow “Bino”: Brexit-in-name-only.

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[ See also: Shadow ministers rail against Starmer’s picket-line ban ]

Keir Starmer’s public-ownership train wreck isn’t the first time he’s come off the tracks and faced a shadow cabinet revolt. My snout whispered that at least three members – Lisa Nandy, Louise Haigh and Jonathan Ashworth – ignored commands from his office to condemn the recent rail strikes. Inheriting the lowest number of Labour MPs since the parliament of 1935-1945 puts the brakes on dismissals for disobedience, with so few bodies to fill unexpected vacancies.

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Labour’s most prominent ginger peer, Stewart Wood, was mistaken again for Ed Sheeran, this time in Suffolk, on a stag night for Feargal Sharkey – the former lead singer with Northern Irish punk band the Undertones. Wood, a one-time adviser to Gordon Brown, still gets a teenage kick out of being mistaken for the “Shape of You” singer. Somewhere in the US, a couple are peering at a holiday snap thinking Ed Sheeran looks much younger on TV than that day they met him outside parliament.

[ See also: If the Tory leadership race produces an Asian prime minister, we might have something to celebrate ]

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This article appears in the 27 Jul 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Special