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Tory MP Stuart Andrew finds himself an unlikely hero of the left

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Ending a tumultuous year as an unexpected, if likely temporary, poster boy for Labour MPs is the Tory Stuart Andrew. The UK sports minister scored a winner by defying James “flex” Cleverly, Fifa and the Qatari regime by wearing not only a banned OneLove armband but a rainbow tie and lanyard too at a World Cup match. Swansea East’s motherly Carolyn Harris cooed, “I couldn’t love Stuart Andrew any more than I do tonight,” after the publicly gay minister’s statement. Admiring Labourites mutter sorrowfully that Andrew outshone Mark Drakeford. Their party’s Welsh First Minister talked a good game in Qatar yet no stadium pictures of him were beamed around the world sporting the armband.

[See also: In Qatar’s paranoid parallel universe, the World Cup is just a prop in a theatre of war]

Approaching 2023 with big poll leads, Keir Starmer has vowed to ban MPs’ second-jobbing. This could prove expensive for a few of his own, including David Lammy. The shadow foreign secretary has declared more than £94,000 since January 2021 for presenting LBC radio shows, giving speeches, and a book deal. One comrade surviving on an £84,000 Westminster salary murmured that David Miliband returning would be a double blow.

[See also: “You don’t trash your neighbours”: David Lammy on global Britain under Labour]

Unperturbed that his constituency was discovered in the census to be the land’s most ungodly patch, Caerphilly’s Wayne David chuckled “they worship their local MP instead” to a colleague. It wasn’t the first time this south Wales hotbed of atheism has topped a national table. David once welcomed a survey that crowned Caerphilly the country’s top “dogging” area, until staff explained the practice wasn’t taking Fido for a walk.

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Serving as health secretary at the start of the Cameron-Clegg coalition, Andrew Lansley was forced to pause notorious legislation injecting competition into the NHS. Fast forward to 2022 and a now ermined Lord Lansley gave Rishi Sunak a bloody nose by inserting, with the backing of opposition peers, a delaying “social value” clause into a procurement bill. Lansley’s turned into a rebel with a pause.

[See also: Andy Burnham burnishes his brand on Labour’s left]

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Pledging to abolish the House of Lords isn’t stopping Starmer from appointing fresh Labour peers. Heading for the burgundy benches from the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady asked for donations to strike funds rather than leaving gifts.

The Commons deputy speaker, Nigel Evans, sent parliament’s best or worst Christmas card, depending on your taste. The festive jumper, hat and jokey appeal for a cabinet post were topped by persuading fellow Tory MP Bob Stewart to dress as Santa in a series of “comedy” shots. Colonel Bob’s speaking slots, at 9.17pm on wet Tuesdays, are assured in the new year.

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This article appears in the 07 Dec 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special