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Will more Red Wall Tories defect to Labour as funds dry up?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Wailing and a gnashing of Tory teeth is heard in Red Wall seats being sacrificed to save the Blue Wall. Tory MPs in England’s north and Midlands whimper that they’ve been warned to expect little or no resources to fight the next election. Rishi Sunak’s decision to focus on repelling the Lib Dems in the south is fuelling gossip that Bury South’s Christian Wakeford, who defected to Labour last year, won’t be the only one to cross the floor. My snout whispered that Keir Starmer’s recent appointment of Wakeford as a party whip was designed to encourage other Tory converts.

ConDem coalition posh boys David Cameron and Nick Clegg are due to reunite this month. Invitations have gone out for a cosy chat between “Sir Nicholas” and his old boss Dodgy Dave on 26 January at London’s swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel. Cameron these days chairs the grand Atlantic Partnership in a bid to rehabilitate his reputation after the Greensill scandal. Clegg earns millions a year as global affairs president at Facebook’s parent company, Meta. ConDem austerity proved prosperous for both.

[See also: Tory MP Stuart Andrew finds himself an unlikely hero of the left]

Shadow climate change secretary “Green Ed” Miliband should look away now. Rail strikes have resulted in Labour MPs being told to drive “where possible” when visiting the constituency of West Lancashire on by-election duty. The party’s Skelmersdale campaign HQ is in the Divine Solution Church’s “Dream Centre”. Starmer, an atheist who avoided a reference to God when pledging loyalty to King Charles III, offers himself as the nation’s saviour to locals.

Pollster and Tory peer Robert Hayward was overheard musing that Rishi Sunak won’t suffer the same fate as Liz Truss and Boris Johnson – based on a sharp fall in Christmas cards being sent out by potential leadership challengers. Gaps on mantelpieces will be a relief for a pint-sized premier stalked by Johnson and his fanatics.

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A vertically challenged Sunak, standing knee-high to a Subbuteo player, is fond of informing football fans that his youthful ambition was to be a director of Southampton FC and not PM. But with his club performing as badly in the Premier League as the Conservatives are in the polls, the chances of the Saints staying up and the Tories surviving in power is a double tall order that’s probably beyond him.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle rigorously enforces a ban on MPs criticising Britain’s troubled royal family in parliament. Outside the Palace of Westminster, Sadiq Khan is the politician who deals with the Windsors most regularly. Prince William may be pleased to learn that the London mayor appreciates his tieless attire in private meetings, as open-collared Khan can also dress unencumbered.

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

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This article appears in the 04 Jan 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Sunak Under Siege