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Ben Wallace is on high alert after Prince Harry’s Taliban kill-count revelation

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Captain Harry Wales’s explosive admission that he removed 25 Taliban “chess pieces” from the “board” has Ben Wallace ducking behind sandbags. The Defence Secretary, a captain in the Scots Guards – who was sent to Paris to help bring Princess Diana’s body back to Britain following her death in 1997 – is fuming that the prince-over-the-water publicly revealed the number of people he killed in Afghanistan. Wallace has ordered MoD officials to check what else may be in Harry’s service file, to brace the armed forces for possible future outbursts.

Up to half the cabinet buying private healthcare is another reason why Rishi Sunak pompously dismisses questions about who provides his own medical consultations as “not really relevant”. The Prime Minister fears it will become the new “cocaine” question, with prominent Tories asked whether they’ve ever paid to queue-jump an NHS in crisis. As Labour is unsubtly targeting Sunak’s privilege, the richest PM of modern times calculates that shiftiness is electorally safer than honesty.

Levelling-Down Secretary Michael Gove’s ear is being chewed over a “snobby snub” to the rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield in the New Year’s honours. Tory and Labour Red Wall MPs buried rivalries to complain that the former England and Leeds Rhinos star raising over £7m for motor neurone disease research would’ve led to a gong if he had played posh rugby union and picnicked on quails’ eggs in Twickenham’s car park. “Even the civil servants overseeing the honours system feel it’s an injustice,” screamed my snout, “and it was raised with Gove, who is supposed to champion left-behind communities.” The north-south divide isn’t solely economic.

Over in Labour land the talk is of unhealthy tensions between Wes Streeting and Rosena Allin-Khan. The shadow health secretary and shadow mental health minister are on very different policy pages. Streeting (and U-turning Keir Starmer) has championed NHS outsourcing and confronting the BMA – policies opposed by Dr Allin-Khan, still toiling on the front line and registering £665 ten-hour shifts in south London’s St George’s Hospital. A survivor of bad blood during the Blair era voiced hopes that the pair don’t come to blows given the state of the ambulance service.

Seven-time Westminster loser Nigel Farage won’t risk an eighth run for parliament unless electoral reform is introduced. His fellow traveller Richard Tice, the property magnate and head of Reform UK (née Brexit Party), which is nibbling the Tory right flank, has bought a house in Hartlepool, where he polled 26 per cent in 2019 and plans to stand again. Savour Farage’s forced smile should Tice triumph.

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

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This article appears in the 11 Jan 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Burning down the House of Windsor