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Tories pray for electoral salvation. Will St Boris intercede?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Inside No 10 can be heard the strangled sound of swallowed pride as Rishi Sunak’s closest aides discuss begging a predecessor-but-one he stabbed in the back to return as an election saviour. Rebuffed by Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s team are considering an approach beseeching Boris Johnson to hit the campaign trail. Desperate times, desperate measures. I’m told Sunak calculates the humiliation of asking Johnson to rescue the Tories to be less than the ignominy of a landslide defeat. Johnson’s cronies predict their hero might relish overshadowing Sunak but would require grovelling at the Uriah Heep end of the obsequiousness scale to endorse his assassin.

Tory attempts to gerrymander May’s London mayoral election by axing the supplementary vote system – so that a left-wing rival splits Labour support to deny Sadiq Khan a historic third term – look to be in vain. Westminster comrades of Jeremy Corbyn whisper he definitely will not run for City Hall, storing his political capital to stand at the general election. First-past-the-post was Trumpist Tory Susan “off the wall” Hall’s best hope. Apathy is her last.

Delivered a first-class pasting in the Fujitsu Post Office scandal, Ed Davey’s lot fear a coup to oust the former postal minister from the Lib Dem leadership. An influential party member was surprised to be asked if he was involved in the suspected putsch (he isn’t). Just because a leader is paranoid doesn’t mean Lib Dems aren’t after you. Might deputy leader Daisy Cooper come up smelling of roses?

Covid VIP-lane PPE Tory peer Michelle Mone and her tycoon husband Doug Barrowman’s PR is the worst. The own-goal interview with Laura Kuenssberg was Prince Andrew meets Captain Tom’s family, and moaning Mone comparing her treatment to that of Pablo Escobar gloriously damaging. Spinning for her is Nigel Farage’s former adviser Dan Jukes, a right-whinger once photographed dining with the vile reactionary Andrew Tate and notorious conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson. I hope the money is good. No PR could want Mone and Barrowman on their CV.

Relations have cooled, I gather, between Liz Truss and Thérèse Coffey. One was beaten by a lettuce, the other urged families to eat turnips rather than tomatoes. The former besties, however, are no longer two peas from the same pod.

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Over in the House of Lords they’ve put moth traps in the chamber to stop winged raiders chewing the place. Dozing members waking to find holes in their ermine would be the closest to a constitutional crisis since toasters were banned in the Bishops’ bar.

[See also: Holden out for a hero: seatless Tory chair pitches up in Wellingborough]

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This article appears in the 17 Jan 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Trump’s Revenge