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Boris Johnson is once again shown the door

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Eviction from Downing Street and more holidays than Michael Palin have left bumbling Boris Johnson a lost soul in Westminster. My snout followed the discarded PM leaving the Commons chamber and hurtling towards the members’ cloakroom. Unable to open the not-that-recently-installed security doors, he pressed the emergency alarm by mistake. A guard was summoned to silence the high-pitched squawk as the back-bench MP blushed below his thinning blond barnet. It was hardly Johnson’s first noisy and embarrassing political exit.

Dirks are being sharpened to depose waistcoat-wearing Ian Blackford as the SNP’s leader in Westminster. Stephen Flynn, the party’s MP for Aberdeen South, has denied he is planning a formal challenge. This has bought Blackford time, but my informant suggested we observe the stone-faced quiet of many of his MPs when he speaks, their unhappiness fuelled by the mishandling of a string of scandals. Bruiser Blackford, one-time chair of a funeral-plan company, is battling to avoid his own political burial.

[See also: More reality TV bookings beckon for Matt Hancock]

Rugby-playing Tory Ben Everitt turned poetic and spouted a Shakespearean “friends, robots, countrymen” at a Westminster reception promoting autonomous delivery machines in his Milton Keynes North constituency. One colleague noted Everitt’s language has improved since he had to apologise after a 2011 tweet abusing the late Labour MP and peer Tessa Jowell resurfaced in 2020. Perhaps he realised words without thoughts never to heaven go, in a Buckinghamshire “Hamlet” with a now-vulnerable 6,255 majority.

Tax rises, interest rate increases, spending cuts and Keir Starmer’s Blair-esque poll leads are panicking Red Wall Tories with thin majorities into making plans for their future after Westminster. A lobbyist whispered that two with majorities below 2,000 had told him they would be available for hire after the election. “We don’t really need Tories – there’ll be a glut of them,” sniffed the lobbyist. “We want Labour people.”

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Blink and you’d have missed him as Ukip leader, but ousted Henry Bolton told me he was nevertheless offered £310,000 to go on a reality TV show with Bear Grylls – but the final call never came. Camel-penis-eating moonlighter Matt Hancock may feel a reported £400,000 fee isn’t enough for the ridicule he’s faced. Wait until the Covid inquiry, when he’ll really be screaming “Get me out of here”.

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This article appears in the 23 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Russian Roulette