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The Labour smear machine has unintentionally revealed the split between Yvette Cooper and Steve Reed

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

What is it about freewheelin’ Tories? In 2008, David Cameron was caught cycling through red lights and the wrong way up no-entry streets. Harum-scarum Boris Johnson’s multiple misdemeanours have included no helmet and, in the dark, no lights. Now a minister of state for transport, Jesse Norman, has been spotted using his mobile while pedalling furiously towards parliament. Yours truly and a perambulating snout were passed by the preoccupied minister as he rode one-handed while studying his phone in the other. Using a mobile isn’t, unlike for car drivers, an offence for two-wheelers. Bikeability training, the modern cycling proficiency test, is part of Norman’s brief – so he should be aware the Highway Code stresses the need to “avoid any actions that could reduce your control of your cycle”. Do as I say, not as I do?

Labour’s smear machine branding Rishi Sunak a paedophile’s friend unintentionally illuminated worsening tensions between Yvette Cooper and Steve Reed, who wants her job. No squeamish softy on crime herself, the shadow home secretary didn’t retweet the offending ad that was shared five times by Reed, the shadow justice secretary, who is behind the brutal strategy. “Steve increasingly sounds like an avenging Charles Bronson in Death Wish tryingto paint Yvette as a do-gooding Lord Longford,” opined a bemused Labour MP. Another said relations were worse than between Wes Streeting and Rosena Allin-Khan in the health team.

The Tory scramble for safer seats is rapidly resembling Wacky Races. One MP with a 12,000 majority is rumoured to have bought a house in a constituency with a fatter cushion. Three colleagues have approached retiring Sajid Javid about the Bromsgrove seat he’ll bequeath with a 23,000 majority. And Nadine Dorries is sick of approaches over the Mid Bedfordshire she’ll leave with a 24,600 majority. It’s the biggest gunfight since the OK Corral.

Donald Trump’s mounting legal woes and White House rerun are manna from heaven for James Cleverly. The Foreign Secretary’s nightmare was the former president hopping on Trump Force One and flying to Scotland to play a round at his Aberdeenshire golf course. The ex-commander-in-chief would have expected the full red carpet treatment. Joe Biden toe-touching in Northern Ireland is a walk in the park compared with clodhopping Trump.

Time hasn’t changed Gordon Brown. On a red-flag-waving visit to Labour’s new Blackfriars HQ, the former prime minister greeted individual staff with a cheery “Thank you for all you do” and asked if they liked their desks. He deployed identical small talk when in No 10. Wry smiles signalled that Labour staffers remembered.

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This article appears in the 12 Apr 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Anniversary Issue