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To ward off election hubris, Labour raises the spectre of Neil Kinnock in 1992

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Excited Labour MPs, giddy on the fumes of Tory sleaze, are urged “don’t inhale” by Warley Warrior John Spellar. The veteran of 1992’s disappointment – when Neil Kinnock believed he was poised to usurp John Major in No 10 – leaves Keir “no complacency” Starmer sounding like a raging hedonist.

Spellar’s daily email newsletter for Westminster colleagues tells anybody who’ll listen (and some who don’t) that relaxing when avalanche polls predict the Conservatives could be swept away would be fatal. Labour finished 163 seats behind the Cons in 2019, he argues, and is unlikely next time to finish anywhere near Tony Blair’s 179-seat majority in 1997. Old warhorse Spellar is a wet blanket dampening premature celebrations.

[See also: Boris Johnson is once again shown the door]

The PLP chair, John Cryer, was overheard grumbling about some Labour comrades who moan that weekly meetings of the party in Westminster are boring. After the bloodletting of the Corbyn era, Cryer considers dull to be the new bright future. The aspiration of some Tories is now to go into opposition, relying on Starmer failing to secure a majority and signing a No 10 tenancy agreement with Lib and SNP co-landlords. The Disunited Kingdom’s Brexit border down the Irish Sea will scupper another Theresa May £1bn bung parliament with the DUP, say Tories.

Nadhim Zahawi’s business dealings, including banking at least £1.3m while an MP from an oil company with a Kurdistan field, have long triggered whispers. A YouGov poll of Tory colleagues would find the former chancellor’s rags-to-riches story has also been taxing for a number of blues. Zahawi’s grandfather was governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, his signature appearing on the country’s banknotes.

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One Tory MP noted that after Zahawi’s father fled to Britain to escape Saddam Hussein, the family had enough to send little Naddy to £24,000-a-year King’s College School in Wimbledon. “It was no tenner in the pocket and all worldly possessions in a carrier bag,” bleated an unhappy ex-minister, “which is unfortunate for Zahawi, because he might not be in this mess if that had been the case.”

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Still no sign of Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list, which may be a relief for the already gonged. My snout says the roster of names is so long that completing checks is laborious and objections are raised against several of those favoured by the slippery chap who wants knighthoods and ermine for benefactors. Johnson’s “Harrods List” may out-pong Marcia Williams’s 1976 Lavender List, which caused a stink after Harold Wilson’s resignation.

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee is a discreet unit, but word emerges of a member infuriating the other MPs with his crude sexism during a briefing from a female senior spook. The Judi Dench figure didn’t appreciate his “totty” treatment.

[See also: Will more Red Wall Tories defect to Labour as funds dry up?]

This article appears in the 25 Jan 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why Germany doesn’t do it better