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“We’re all Blairites now” in the Labour Party

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The latest Labour sun-and-spritzer natter on the terrace is about how Keir Starmer had started by being close to Gordon Brown but is now nearer to Tony Blair. The party’s likely next prime minister is said by one of his inner circle to have been pulled into the orbit of the three-time election winner after starting his leadership under the greater influence of Brown.

That journey has MPs speculating that the next Labour policy to be jettisoned may be the commitment, prompted by the iron chancellor himself, to surrender patronage and replace the House of Cronies with a fully elected second chamber. “We’re all Blairites now,” mused one shadow cabinet minister.

[See also: Does Labour’s soft left have a future?]

The Tories’ deputy chair “30p Lee” Anderson swerved the launch of the ultra-reactionary New Conservatives parliamentary group due to a “terrible sick bug”. It was, gasped a horrified One Nation Tory, the Mad Hatter missing his tea party. The anti-migrant group is viewed as Suella Braverman’s draft leadership team once Rishi Sunak gets his electoral defenestration. The president is veteran right-whinger John Hayes, an unofficial adviser and close friend of the Home Secretary. All that is missing is a Cruella de Vil campaign HQ in Rwanda, sniffed the contemptuous MP.

Under the cosh and fearing suspensions, Labour lefties seeking fresh allies are putting it about that Starmer might not appoint Angela Rayner as his deputy PM. Brown never gave the title to the then party deputy leader, Harriet Harman, a slight she never forgave and he never explained. Starmer’s people are quashing the rumour. The reign of terror unleashed by centrist score-settlers –blocking candidates and moving to expel harmless dissidents such as the Compass think tank co-founder Neal Lawson – is fomenting paranoia.

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Labour’s all-white male line-up for four forthcoming by-elections (should dithering Nadine Dorries ever get around to resigning in Mid Beds) is upsetting socialist sisters. Over at the Lib Dems, the excited chatter is about how they’ll be well on the way to having as many MPs called Sarah (three) as men in total (five), should the candidate Sarah Dyke win in Somerton and Frome. Nick Clegg should be blushing. He ran a boy’s club in the ConDem coalition, initially fielding a full-bloke Lib Dem ministerial squad.

Tory wannabe candidates are revolting. One on the approved list grumbled that they had been ordered to pay at least four visits to a by-election seat. When selection is increasingly limited to constituencies the party is likely to lose at the next general election, being instructed to be doorstep fodder comes as a bit of a knock.

[See also: What is the point of Humza Yousaf?]

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This article appears in the 05 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Broke Britannia