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The Conservative ship is going down – save yourselves!

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Wagatha Christie is the unlikely inspiration for Tory MPs desperate to plug leaks from WhatsApp groups. Coleen Rooney’s online sleuthing for evidence to accuse Rebekah Vardy of sharing her secrets is the template for loyal Tory 2019ers plotting to expose colleagues. Spoiler alert: everybody is doing it! It’s every man and woman for themselves when the Conservative ship is going down.

The times they are a-changin’ in the House of Lords, where a shortage of fake fur is creating discord ahead of the State Opening on 7 November. My fancy-dress snout growled there are insufficient synthetic robes to cloak an influx of animal-lovin’ veggies headed by Lady Basildon – Angela Smith – the Labour leader. Kicking out affronted blue-blood hereditaries muttering the place is going to the dogs would be a mercy killing.

Labour brainy boot boy Nicklaus “Nick” Thomas-Symonds, author of a reissued Clement Attlee biog, quipped he’d bought the latest volume of Jonathan Sumption’s epic series on the Hundred Years War to discover “what happened to Tony and Gordon in the end”. One veteran of the era wondered why he thought it would be over so early.

Westminster teeth are gnashing over Hugh Tomlinson KC, the lawyer representing Donald Trump in his pursuit of ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele over that “perverted sexual behaviour” dossier. The Tory MP Bob Seely deployed parliamentary privilege in 2022 to assert that Tomlinson and others represented Vladimir Putin’s cronies to silence critics with Slapp lawsuits (a representative of the barrister claimed this was “false”). Tomlinson is also chair of Hacked Off, self-styled “campaign for a free and accountable press”. Funny old routes that legal taxi rank takes.

Labour’s driving the eco talk with a £35,000 Peugeot e-208 electric car first prize in a party fundraiser. Will the Tories offer a diesel rival?

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Nadine Dorries could buy three of those battery motors with a six-figure Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday serialisation of her book on heroic Boris Johnson and treacherous Rishi Sunak. Hereditary press baron Jonathan Harmsworth must be giving up on the PM, much like voters in Mid Beds and Tamworth.

Glorious don’t-you-know-who-I-am? moment when the Covid vaccine sceptic Andrew Bridgen was offered a Westminster flu jab leaflet. Sitting as the sole MP for Laurence Fox’s Reclaim sect after suspension from the Cons, Bridgen declined. Bravo for the heroic tryer who never gave up. Or didn’t recognise his prey.

[See also: The Labour revolt over Keir Starmer’s Gaza policy is spreading]

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This article appears in the 25 Oct 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Fog of War