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More reality TV bookings beckon for Matt Hancock

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Updates are awaited on the health of the scorpion that stung Matt Hancock, but it seems the jungle isn’t the end of his ambition to be a light entertainer. An SAS show is in the can and the MP for Reality TV Central, groaned a Tory colleague, has hopes for Strictly (in contrast, Liberal Democrat clodhopper Tim Farron has revealed he once turned down Dancing on Ice). That Gina Coladangelo office CCTV clinch suggests Hancock would be more suited to Through the Keyhole.

Women strolling with men in Qatar, and not only gay football fans, could be targets of the morality police at the World Cup, judging by the uncomfortable experience of Ellie Reeves on a trip to Qatar. The shadow prisons minister – who was a lawyer before she became a Labour MP – was stopped and questioned by a copper in the capital, Doha, when she was part of a trade union delegation investigating the exploitation of migrant workers. Her offence? Reeves was a woman walking with five men along the esplanade. The officer demanded to know which one was her husband. Reeves is married to PLP chair John Cryer, who was safely back in London, so Jim Kennedy, a Ucatt then Unite official, claimed it was him. The satisfied cop allowed the group to continue on their way and Reeves was spared an unscheduled visit to a Qatari jail cell.

On Johnson’s controversial honours list, Paul Dacre’s yearning to be a peer – despite decades of establishment-bashing – is fuelled by an obsession with emulating Guy Black, Baron Black of Brentwood. My snout whispered Dacre is irritated that his newspaper-baron rival, who is deputy chair of the Telegraph Media Group, is able to “lord” it over him. The conventional view was Dacre wished to go one better than knighted Mail predecessor Sir David English. I’m told that Black, an establishment fixture, lives rent-free in Dacre’s head.

Jeremy Hunt’s unashamed patronage has been antagonising Tories after he restored his former henchman Adam Smith to the heart of government as the austerian Chancellor’s spad. Smith was forced to leave the then culture secretary’s side in 2012 over cosiness with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp during the BSkyB bid. The namesake of the father of capitalism quietly worked his ticket back via Hunt’s parliamentary payroll, having been on his staff since 2019. Tories mutter that Sunak’s “integrity” pledge has been compromised not only by Suella Braverman, Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson.

A colleague of Labour MP Rosie Cooper, who is quitting her West Lancashire seat for a senior NHS job, revealed that, as a firebrand young Liberal councillor, Cooper once dropped a rat on a table and exclaimed that’s what you got when you voted Labour. The stunt has gnawed away at her comrades for years.

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[See also: Sunak struggles and Labour goes Count Dooku]

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This article appears in the 16 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The state we’re in