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Team Sunak scores an own goal

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Politics and sport didn’t mix at Chesham United for a stumbling Rishi Sunak filmed showing he is as good at football as he is at politics. Most of the coaches, parents and young players boycotted the campaign stunt at the Buckinghamshire club, which is based in a constituency the Tories need to win back – they lost a by-election there, Chesham and Amersham, to the Lib Dems in 2021. Enough players were finally mustered to play extras in a Conservative promo, but a coach of one of the age groups revealed many older boys, potential recruits for Sgt Sunak’s national service, refused to attend. The PM’s brother lives locally, but hostile messages from Chesham supporters on its X (formerly Twitter) feed of a team newly promoted to National League South suggest the Tories face a tough election season. One disgusted fan pointed out the club’s kitchen was recently used to help struggling families.

Keir Starmer has so far avoided dribbling around cones, and party strategists focusing play on the centre of the pitch, shunning the left wing, increasingly believe heckles from their own side could turn into an advantage. Unite chief Sharon Graham’s broadsides at Labour’s revised and rebranded Make Work Pay job and union rights package irritates not only Starmer but union leaders such as Mick Whelan, Matt Wrack and Dave Ward, who did the negotiating while the syndicalist stayed away from earlier meetings. With the leader and Rachel Reeves falling over themselves to embrace business, Team Starmer is calculating that Sister Sharon’s public grumblings could reinforce the change of pitch. When Gordon Brown was chancellor, his spinner, Charlie Whelan, rang Unison’s Rodney Bickerstaffe after a Budget and asked him to attack it.

Gender wars combatant Rosie Duffield won’t be standing again in Canterbury from the address used in past contests. Labour local councillors were amused to see the family’s two-bed, end-of-terrace house, sandwiched between a busy road and river, pop up unexpectedly on BBC One property show Homes Under the Hammer. One quipped the place, sold at auction for £195,000 requiring renovation, looked as if the work would need to be as extensive as Starmer’s on the party.

Sunak will never be forgiven for an earlier election keeping MPs and peers from rubbing shoulders with Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen at the music industry’s Ivor Novello Awards. Tickets were hotter than for a Taylor Swift gig. The Labour leader in the Lords, Angela Smith, was forced to stay in Westminster for the wash-up. Giggles about how a woman’s work is never done tested even her legendary humour.

Jeremy Corbyn lost the 2017 election with 40 per cent of the vote. Could Starmer be about to win 2024 with a lesser proportion? Stranger things have happened, remarked a veteran left-winger.

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[See also: Ambassador Farage opens door to Team Trump for Lammy]

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