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Local Conservative clubs are still clamouring for reckless right-wingers

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Bovver boy “30p Lee” Anderson is the Tory speaker most requested by local Conservative associations, whispered a snout. Demand for the deputy chair, who denounced second jobs for MPs until GB News offered him £100,000, shows grassroots members who preferred Liz Truss over Rishi Sunak are as reactionary as ever. Loose cannon Suella Braverman is also popular, while beleaguered, saner outposts seek swordswoman Penny Mordaunt. The minister few associations want on the menu alongside rubber chicken? Jeremy Hunt. The Chancellor has less appeal than a tax return.

Sunak’s latest wheeze to get rebellious backbenchers onside is to invite as many as possible, with their partners, to Chequers, the host calculating that a day in the country might buy a little loyalty. His other ruse, I hear, is to appoint even more trade envoys, flattering egos with meaningless titles for publicly funded jollies. Remote islands are handy destinations for enemies within.

[See also: Will Rishi Sunak sack Jeremy Hunt?]

Basking in her ignorance, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch admitted to a TUC delegation that she didn’t know what trade unions were when asked for an explanation. The Tolpuddle Martyrs must be turning in their graves. Badenoch next week: what did suffragettes ever do for women?

Labour frontbenchers returning from Selby and Ainsty report that the youthfulness of the party’s by-election candidate is being raised on doorsteps. Former CBI staffer Keir Mather is a fresh-faced 25. “Voters say he looks and sounds like a schoolboy,” groaned one MP, “and do you know what? He does.” Another suggested Mather grow a beard. Fail to take the seat and his hair will go grey overnight.

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Elton John has finished touring and now dad-rockers MP4 are to call it a day after two decades playing the same three chords. The greatest band in parliament’s history – the first and only band, in fact – have been together since 2004. Tory MP and drummer Greg Knight is hanging up his sticks, so he, Kevin Brennan, Pete Wishart and Ian Cawsey are rehearsing for a final gig at Speaker’s House in November. Rare unsigned copies of MP4’s album are available.

“A standing ovation for me in the European Parliament,” lonesome Covid conspiracy theorist Andrew Bridgen was overheard boasting. “They are so desperate for leadership. It was all filmed.” Really? The gathering of deniers graced by the expelled Tory MP, a Brexiteer now flying a pennant for Laurence Fox’s extremist Reclaim rabble, was in a meeting room, and not the main chamber. “It’s like pretending to have stormed the Bastille while rattling the bars of a small-town jail,” sniffed a Bridgen-phobe.

[See also: Who are the 31 male MPs on Westminster’s list of shame?]

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This article appears in the 12 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Tabloid Nation