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Angry Anderson now chairs the Tory party’s Unpopularity Committee

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Lee Anderson’s anti-Muslim bile – scuppering No 10 plans to portray Rishi Sunak as getting on with the job of governing the country – has infuriated One Nation Tories. Anderson’s quest for personal controversy at whatever cost, growled an English northern Tory, gives Brextremist tugboat Mark Francois a rival for the unenviable title of most unpopular colleague. Puffed-up Anderson has probably nudged ahead, ignoring jeers to milk reactionary cheers. Labour wags touted a “Lee for Leader” campaign. “He already acts as if he is,” groaned a despairing Conservative MP.

The rumbling stramash over did-he-or-didn’t-he bully Lindsay Hoyle isn’t hampering Keir Starmer’s yomp to Downing Street. Entering No 10 after Jeremy Corbyn bequeathed Labour’s fewest MPs since 1935 would be remarkable – if not quite as extraordinary as Wes Streeting believes. He declared at a fundraiser for the party’s Telford candidate, Shaun Davies, that Starmer winning the election would be the fourth time a Labour leader walked up Downing Street from opposition. Womp-womp. My snout called to correct Streeting. Starmer would be the fifth, not fourth, after Ramsay MacDonald, Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair on what would be a seventh Labour premiership from opposition, because MacDonald and Wilson did it twice each. Lucky that Streeting is Labour’s health man, not education head. Pedants of the world, unite!

Parliamentarians on a cross-party visit to Kyiv for the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion were unnerved by air-raid sirens sounding in Ukraine’s capital, then again on the train into Poland. The ensemble, including Tobias Ellwood, Alicia Kearns and Neil Coyle, were accompanied by a prominent ex-MP. Back home, one mused they were probably always safe because Putin wouldn’t want to take out one of his best assets, Boris “Britain Trump” Johnson.

Robert Jenrick is reinventing himself as a rebel with a reactionary cause, since quitting cabinet in a huff. After being overlooked twice for home secretary by his chum Sunak (in favour of Suella Braverman and James Cleverly), the former immigration minister is said to be increasingly precious. Tory researchers were overheard muttering that Jenrick, betraying his ambition for the party crown with a new Caesar haircut, had delayed a reshuffle of offices by quibbling over a move of his own. My informant snarled it was still bigger than a Bibby Stockholm berth.

David Lammy cancelling an hour-long PLP drop-in 15 minutes after what an invitee complained was “our new impenetrable position on Gaza” went down as well as a cup of cold char. The shadow foreign secretary spared himself an ear-bashing, I hear.

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[See also: Tireless Tory chair swaps hustings for hostelries]

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This article appears in the 28 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The QE Theory of Everything