New Times,
New Thinking.

Sunak struggles and Labour goes Count Dooku

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Luminaries of TV, film, music, dance, theatre and other arts packed London’s Conduit club to launch Labour Creatives. Keir Starmer, who as a schoolboy took violin lessons alongside classmate Fatboy Slim, sang the praises of the sector and so was enthusiastically received. In her five minutes the shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, namechecked veteran Labour legend Patrick Stewart and it all went a bit Count Dooku. My snout listened open-mouthed as Powell talked about Stewart having starred in Star Wars, not Star Trek. She told a convoluted story involving him that may as well have been in Wookiee. May the farce be with you and beam her up, Scotty.

Rishi Sunak will struggle to hold the Tories together in Westminster – and Labour and the Lib Dems aren’t the only parties speaking to potential defectors. Richard Tice, head of the right-wing populist party Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party), is chatting to a handful of the disgruntled Tory MPs. Reform claims to have recruited 4,534 new members, many of them disenchanted Cons, since the Truss toppling. MPs resigned to losing their seats might go out in a blaze of desertion. Property mogul Tice, standing again in Hartlepool, plays hard. While he was goalkeeping for a team playing prisoners inside Strangeways during his Salford uni years, a penalty-taking inmate snarled, out of earshot of the ref: “Sonny, do yourself a favour and let this in if you know what’s good for you.” He did.

Twice-sacked Gavin Williamson’s past misdeeds are burning the ex-fireplace salesman. MPs mutter that his circle called Wendy Morton, the whistle-blowing former chief whip, “Wendy Moron”. The nickname is unlikely to appease his accuser. One Tory insisted Sunak regrets resurrecting Williamson and suggested a third dismissal – which eventually came on the evening of 8 November – would be fatal. And spare a thought for Sunak’s current Westminster enforcer, Simon Hart. Six ex-chief whips are backseat-driving in the government, with Williamson joined by Mark Harper (now transport), Chris Heaton-Harris (Northern Ireland), Mark Spencer (environment), Andrew Mitchell (aid) and Michael Gove (levelling down). No wonder it does so many screeching U-turns.

Wry smiles on the faces of smokestack Tories over Grant Shapps preaching the green revolution. The Business Secretary, AKA get-rich-quick evangelist Michael Green – Shapps’s pen name in his guise as a web marketer in the mid-2000s – owns a private plane.

Wannabe knight “Sir” David Beckham’s £10m Qatar World Cup promotional deal might have been an own goal. New Year honours are being compiled, and word in the Cabinet Office is that the regime’s loot is another red card for overlooked Becks.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[See also: Gavin Williamson’s resignation calls into question Rishi Sunak’s “integrity and accountability” vow]

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy

Topics in this article : , ,

This article appears in the 09 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, On the brink