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Labour reshuffle rumours and live lobsters in the lobby

Labour frontbenchers seeking preferment may be well advised to pull their finger out. Ed Miliband has instructed the whips’ office to compile files on spokespeople below the rank of shadow cabinet. The hard-driving leader is monitoring how regularly shadow ministers speak from the back benches, ask questions and intervene in debates beyond their brief. I have it on good authority that Little Ed is considering a significant reshuffle after the autumn political jamborees. The keen-as-mustard will have a chance of promotion to the full shadow cabinet. Glory hunters who squeak only from the despatch box risk demotion to the ranks.
Is Andrew Mitchell too posh to press the flesh? Word reaches me of an awkward encounter between the Old Rugbeian and one-time president of the Cambridge Union and Mark Hendrick, an engineer representing gritty Preston. The millionaire International Development Secretary declined Hendrick’s hand at a powwow to discuss the Labour MP’s private bill to secure 0.7 per cent of income for aid. Hendrick, who has Somali heritage, remarked that George W Bush once snubbed Barack Obama the same way. Mitchell’s hand shot out, the minister explaining he never shook after a first meeting.
Claws were out after East Kilbride’s Michael McCann took live lobsters in to parliament, harbouring the crustaceans in one of the few Commons offices with a bath. The arthropods were being kept fresh by the Labour MP for a Mumbai lobster dish, cooked by a restaurant from his Scottish constituency for Westminster’s annual south Indian food-fest known as the Tiffin Cup. The curry house, Asha’s, finished fourth. There was a kerfuffle, however, when a parliamentary aide let the lobsters loose in a corridor. A Tory researcher screamed blue murder, the panicked young lady mistaking the snapping seafood for giant cockroaches.
One of the relics of a hereditary era, the 2nd Baron Trefgarne, formerly known as plain David Trefgarne, grumbles about sartorial standards in the dining rooms of the House of Lords. All that new money doesn’t dress like the old, eh, Mr Davey T? His concern makes you wonder if many peers are licking Wall’s ice creams and wearing beach thongs with flip-flops in there.
Chuka Umunna’s summer media bash is a grand affair. Ed Mili sent an email inviting all lobby hacks to a glass of warm vino in Labour’s new home at 1 Brewer’s Green. The ambitious shadow biz sec’s gig is at the Adam Street private members’ club. Stiffy cards were embossed with the logo of RANsquawk, supplier of financial data to traders and brokers. Most hacks won’t be there: Umunna, unlike Miliband, is restricting entry to a select few.
Eric “Rambo” Joyce’s legacy is assured. Strangers’ Bar has replaced 4.8 per cent Stella with a weaker, 4 per cent version of the Belgian brew after the lager lout’s rampage in February. Thirsty MPs, slurred a snout, call a fifth pint “an Eric” – the extra glass is what you need to reach the quantity of alcohol Joyce imbibed before his outburst. 
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Honey, I shrunk the Tories