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“There will be blood” inside Labour’s HQ once “Rottweiler” Sue Gray starts as chief of staff

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The penny’s dropping inside the leader of the opposition’s office that Sue Gray could make life difficult for slackers. One survivor from the Blair years blamed fears she’d crack the whip as Keir Starmer’s chief of staff for briefings that Gray may never arrive from Whitehall. “The pups are suddenly worried a Rottweiler would sink her fangs into what’s still a chaotic operation and there’ll be blood, their blood,” growled the veteran MP. Gray’s awaiting an Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) gardening leave ruling. Tories lobbying for a two-year ban appear not to be alone in hoping Gray will be given plenty of time to mow the grass.

Globetrotting Rishi Sunak prefers rubbing shoulders with the likes of Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron to listening to Tory titans such as Scott Benton, Tom Hunt and others in the party’s Ukip tendency. Conservative campaign guru Isaac Levido’s strategy is to portray the PM as a man with a plan for Britain at home and abroad. My Tory snout whispered that the comparison Levido’s spinning is with the chaotic and incompetent Boris Johnson and Liz Truss rather than steady Starmer.

Discipline is breaking down in a fracturing SNP battalion that once marched in lockstep around Westminster, with new colonel Stephen Flynn struggling to impose unity in London when back home in Scotland the party is ripping itself apart. The latest gossip on why Nicola Sturgeon is stepping down ranges from a UN gig to wanting to adopt a child. My informant predicted hubby Peter Murrell, the Nats’ beleaguered chief exec, will follow her out the door. According to my source: if continuity candidate Humza Yousaf becomes first minister Murrell would be allowed to choose a date, if Kate Forbes wins the departure would be swift, while if Ash Regan triumphs he’d be sacked.

Her inbox invaded by fat-fingered racists inflamed by Hampshire neighbour Suella Braverman’s loudhailer, Tory MP and former immigration minister Caroline Nokes was overheard noting that the hate emails had some common characteristics after she publicly refused to vote for the (illegal) Illegal Immigration Bill. “They all seemed to have a problem with spelling,” remarked Nokes, “and consider punctuation a foreign language never to be used.” The same is muttered about some of her knuckle-scraping “stop the boats” colleagues on the green benches.

The increasingly erratic behaviour of singleton Michael Gove is raising eyebrows. At a Tory away day in a swanky hotel, the Levelling Down Secretary led the warbling. The talk is of a late midlife crisis, a bit like that of the Conservative government.

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[See also: How Labour and the Tories are converging]

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This article appears in the 15 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Iraq Catastrophe