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George Galloway makes the top three flightiest MPs of all time

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

George Galloway’s victories in five parliamentary constituencies (Glasgow Hillhead, Glasgow Kelvin, Bethnal Green, Bradford West and now Rochdale) matches the quintet of his hero Winston Churchill (Oldham, Manchester North West, Dundee, Epping and Woodford), but is one short of William Gladstone’s six (Newark, Oxford University, Lancashire Southern, Greenwich, Edinburghshire, and Leith, albeit the latter on a technicality). Given the propensity of the argumentative wanderer for falling out with people, don’t rule out a record-equalling sixth.

The whackiest hypothesis in Conservative ranks as to why Rishi Sunak dodged a 2 May general election is that deferring it would be the obvious thing to do had he been warned by Buckingham Palace to brace for grave news about the King. The governing party’s MPs were overheard before the Easter recess quietly airing this unfounded speculation. Conspiracy theories aren’t restricted to the internet, clearly. Delaying electoral annihilation is the most likely explanation for Sunak clinging on.

Many MPs are accused of wearing their heart on their sleeve. Tory Chris Clarkson has his majority of 663 embroidered on his cuffs. The 2019 Red Waller is joining the Conservative exodus, quitting a Heywood and Middleton seat halved by boundary commissioners. Given huge Labour poll leads, had Clarkson stayed he may have required extra-large shirts to record the scale of his defeat.

Chesterfield’s burly Toby Perkins informs yours truly he worked during his salad days as a doorman at the crooked-spire town’s Green Room bar, following a cheap jibe here about the Labour frontbencher resembling a bouncer. Meanwhile, in a public house in Cardiff that I noted remains Parliamentary Pub of the Year because the contest wasn’t held between 2020 and 2023, the landlord, Gareth Morgan, added “still” to the citation above his bar. Commons Confidential refreshes the parts other columns cannot reach.

Blur drummer Dave Rowntree is a Labour long shot in Mid Sussex, a blue bastion likely to survive the red wave, yet I hear he’s already let parliamentary rock band MP4 know that, if elected, he wouldn’t replace Tory Greg Knight, who is hanging up his sticks and departing Westminster voluntarily. Either Blur’s titanic battles with Oasis took it out of Rowntree, or he thinks, as Blur stated, Modern Life Is Rubbish, and that includes dad bands.

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Wickedest whisper in Labour circles is that party heavyweights are urging Keir Starmer to go on a crash diet and lose 12 stone of excess, troublesome weight: Peter Mandelson.

[See also: How low will Sunak go to keep power?]

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This article appears in the 03 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Fragile Crown

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