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Ambassador Farage opens door to Team Trump for Lammy

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

David Lammy owes Nigel Farage a pint or five. The Thatcherite president of hard-right Reform UK privately helped pave the way for the shadow foreign secretary on his recent trip Stateside to meet leading lights in Donald Trump’s top team, including the campaign manager Chris LaCivita. I’m reliably informed that Trump HQ contacted Farage to ask if it should bother meeting a visiting progressive who’d previously labelled the man-toddler only a coin flip from the US presidency a “racist Ku Klux Klan and Nazi sympathiser”. “Of course you must meet him,” replied Farage, “he’s going to be the UK foreign secretary.” It’s Biden or bust for those who want Farage to play no role in British-American relations.

Dave Cameron’s enthusiastic Commons servant Andrew Mitchell is embracing the spirit of DFS, having been given the honorary title of Deputy Foreign Secretary by Rishi Sunak. “I’m named after a furniture company that has never sold at full price,” boomed Mitchell. The looming election promises to shift more of his Tory colleagues than any sale at the discount chain moved sofas.

When Labour MPs are expected to be trade union members, the question is arising of which might accept new comrade Natalie Elphicke. The answer appears to be none. Dover’s Tory defector voted for anti-strike laws and was hostile to the labour movement she joined. Grizzled veterans speak of Keir Starmer introducing a Rehabilitation of Tory Offenders Act to forgive political shape-shifters crimes that would earn serving Labour MPs suspension.

Tory lanyard wars are intensifying. No-nonsense Caroline Nokes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, proudly hung around her neck a rainbow cord presented by a Labour activist in defiance of no-common-sense minister Esther McVey’s fatwa on brightly coloured straps. “Is there anything that doesn’t divide the Conservative Party?” enquired a weary Tory MP.

Radar-lugged diners overheard junior business minister Alan Mak seeking advice on how to be a good minister from Gus O’Donnell, a former Sir Humphrey turned cross-bench peer. Bit late for that, sniggered my snout, in a government lurching from crisis to crisis.

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Farage, by the way, appeared very much at home in the Carlton Club for Daily Mail hack (and my TV sparring partner) Andrew “Tory Boy” Pierce’s launch of his tale of tracking down his birth mother, Finding Margaret. Terrifying portraits of Cameron and Boris Johnson greet visitors to the grand Conservative Party watering hole. “They’d love to put up one of Nigel for Brexit,” slurred a reveller, “but are waiting until he’s completed taking over the party.” Tick-tock.

[See also: Esther McVey’s war on rainbow lanyards and homeless prisoners]

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This article appears in the 22 May 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Spring Special 2024