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At a patronage rate of a peer per fortnight, Liz Truss’s honours list will out-crony Johnson’s

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Beleaguered Rishi Sunak is braced for another dishonours scandal with the Liz Truss resignation list, whispered by civil servants to be pencilled for release on the last day of parliament before the summer recess. It is rumoured to contain four crony peerages for her seven-week premiership: that is one ermine cloak roughly every 12 days. With at least two tricky by-elections scheduled for 20 July (three, if David Warburton’s former Somerton and Frome seat is also voted on that day; and possibly four, if Nadine Dorries finally plays ball) and a host of unpopular decisions traditionally released on “take out the trash day”, this year’s finale could be the opening of a new tip in which to bury the PM.

[See also: The tug of war over Boris Johnson’s honours list is also a contest for favour from the Tory press]

The woman in the video dancing to “Fairytale of New York” at a bash at Tory HQ during Covid restrictions was lobbyist Malin Baker Bogue, daughter of an American squillionaire. Bogue, an aide in Johnson’s 2019 leadership campaign who now works for wannabe London mayoral candidate Moz Hossain, poses as a tough nut. My snout growled she’d insist her name is pronounced “Malin as in Stalin”. Stalin as in Malin airbrushed opponents from photographs, but Malin as in Stalin and her mates can’t erase the footage.

Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett led 60 MPs, peers and former parliamentarians into a Whitehall pub to celebrate Nick “Newcastle” Brown’s 40 years in Westminster. The knees-up was a defiant expression of sympathy for a veteran chief whip under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn and initially Keir Starmer – before an administrative suspension from Labour nine months ago. Brown, first elected in Newcastle East in 1983 and the fifth-longest-serving member of the Commons, says he still doesn’t know details of the accusation against him. Starmer’s pledge to introduce speedier justice doesn’t extend to his party.

[See also: Pledge tracker: Is Rishi Sunak now regretting his promises?]

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Chicken-run former Tory minister Eddie Hughes is flapping from butchered Walsall North to a fresh, safer perch in Tamworth, currently occupied by Chris Pincher. Party HQ is praying Pincher “doesn’t do a David Warburton” and quit before the general election. If the former whip – whose drunken groping led to Boris Johnson’s No 10 toppling – did pack it in, flighty Hughes would trigger a by-election in Walsall to fight one in Tamworth. “We’ve reached peak farce alert,” groaned a teary Tory. I’m not so sure about that.

The short-lived chancer of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, who cost the nation £30bn, berated a TalkTV organiser when his cab was a few minutes late. “This is poor,” moaned impatient Kamikwasi, “very poor.” “But it was you,” shot back the telly bod, “who made the country poor.” Kwarteng had the good grace to laugh.

[See also: Rural Oxfordshire proves a hostile environment for Boris and Carrie Johnson]

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This article appears in the 21 Jun 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The AI wars