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Keir Starmer lands with a bump

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Globe-trotting Keir Starmer returned to Earth with trade unions pushing for workers’ rights to include those of Sam Tarry, the MP partner of Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner. High-stakes negotiations are under way for a fix to fix a fix by finding a new seat for the deposed left-winger. Tarry is challenging his deselection in Ilford South, with the former shadow minister darkly questioning the legitimacy of his dumping and the involvement of national party officials. Years of energetic campaigning earned Tarry champions in the labour movement’s industrial wing. A plan to persuade Jeremy Corbyn to step down for Tarry in Islington North foundered on Jezza’s refusal to go quietly, or at all. Intriguingly, Tarry and Morgan McSweeney, Starmer’s power broker, were Hope not Hate comrades in the Battle of Barking when the anti-fascist group routed BNP councillors at the end of the Noughties. The workers, united, will always try to avoid a public row.

The ghosts of premierships past continue to spook Rishi Sunak. No 10 has asked Tory HQ to keep it briefed on the self-justification tour of Truss, and loopy Liz’s next move is a plot to hijack the Conservative conference. Aides refer to her as “Boris on steroids”, yet Johnson is creating anxiety too. His Pooterish Daily Mail columns have been inverted pyramids of De Pfeffel so far, but Sunak’s team fear the rag’s big-money signing will finally sing for his supper with a blistering assault on his successor on the eve of the conference.

SNP chat is of Scottish and Westminster leaders Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn hoping to cajole the expelled MP Angus MacNeil back into the fold to prevent him running in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, formerly the Western Isles, as an independent. Large slices of humble pie would need to be swallowed all round. Labour candidate and local lad Torcuil Crichton, a former Daily Record political editor privately backed by a couple of MacNeil’s SNP enemies, is in with a decent shout. My snout whispered MacNeil would need to be offered something big to entice him home. Like independence.

So good so far for Sue Gray. Starmer’s steal from Whitehall is impressing shadow ministers with textbook propriety in meetings. If he’s no-drama Starmer, then his new chief of staff is said to be reassuringly Gray.

Nursing cuts, bruises and wounded pride, a Commons and Lords rugby team captained by the Lib Dem peer Dominic Hubbard, aka the 6th Baron Addington, is holding an inquest after three straight defeats to Argentina, South Africa and the European Union in a political shadow to the World Cup in France. Britain’s Brussels bashing particularly hurt the Brexiteers on the team.

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[See also: In power, Labour will have to act like a wartime cabinet]

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This article appears in the 20 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers