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The officer class is swelling Labour’s ranks

Your weekly dose of gossip from the campaign trail.

By Kevin Maguire

Labour’s band of military Starmtroopers – 14 armed-forces veterans are battling for victory on 4 July – is one of the party’s most telling changes since 2019’s heavy defeat under peacenik Jeremy Corbyn. The battalion includes Colonel Alistair Carns, who marched out of the Royal Marines to land in Birmingham Selly Oak after serving in every major conflict of the past 24 years – winning the Military Cross along the way. Keir Starmer’s political praetorians speak in hushed awe of Colonel Carns: “He makes Dan Jarvis look like a Sea Cadet,” gushed one. For the record, Labour MP Jarvis was a major in the Paras and served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Labour’s uniformed contingent hold mess dinners.

The whisper is that Nigel Farage used his sway in Reform UK to take back control and parachute himself into Clacton after Rishi Sunak rejected armistice terms. Farage, it is said, wanted to stand as an official Conservative somewhere, or be guaranteed an unopposed run for the hard right. Hell hath no fury like a Brextremist scorned.

Diane Abbott dismissed reports she was offered a peerage and Labour HQ insists such offers have been made to no one. Yet, curiously, one of the party’s sudden retirees confided a few months ago that he would only depart should ermine be draped. We’ll see.

Word is Graham Stringer, 74, was asked to give up his new Blackley and Middleton South perch for the burgundy benches. He politely declined, reportedly to the chagrin of Labour Together’s Josh Simons, whose candidacy was relocated to Makerfield. Stringer’s rejection was a surprise to comrades who thought he’d been looking Lordswards for some time.

While forcefully expressing no interest in a peerage, ex-postie Alan Johnson, survivor of five cabinet posts turned bestselling author, revealed he has kept a Bible-shaped money box from his mother. The fag-packet-sized gift bought at a jumble sale is, grimaced a likely Labour minister, large enough to hold all the extra money Rachel Reeves may have for hospitals and schools.

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As the son of a GMB union branch secretary, the late campaigner for motor neurone disease Rob Burrow was a Labour supporter. Before his death the rugby league legend had given Yvette Cooper an endorsement for a leaflet in Pontefract and Castleford. Etiquette dictates we should never read it.

Double-breasted Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg is a Portillo-moment contender. “If I didn’t wear a tie, my head would probably fall off,” he drawled on the campaign trail. Or explode if he’s unknotted?

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

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This article appears in the 05 Jun 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Left Power List 2024