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Commons Confidential: In paradise with Ashcroft

News of a plotters' lunch.

Mumblings in the Lib Dems that Nick Clegg yearns to replace Danny Alexander with Edward “Formerly Known As Ed” Davey in the Quad, the ConDem coalition foursome with David Cameron and George Osborne. The Deputy Prime Minister, my snout insists, fears Danny Boy is Boy George’s captured castle in the Treasury. The sharp-elbowed Energy Secretary is apparently Clogg’s new favourite and would supply an oomph visibly draining from the Chief Secretary. Alexander may resemble an adult Harry Potter, but electrified Lib Dems complain he’s proving a political muggle as the Yellow Peril seeks to put clear blue water between itself and its Tory partner.

The plotters’ lunch between the disaffected Tory billionaire Michael Ashcroft and the Labour trenchermen Tom Watson, Michael Dugher and John Spellar at the Gran Paradiso eatery in London was an unlikely meeting of minds, I hear.

From opposite sides of the political divide, the unlikely quartet shared a common dislike of David Cameron and his imported Aussie attack dingo, Lynton Crosby. Lord Ashcroft of Belize picked up the tab, I can confirm, and Labour attacks on his tax status were forgiven over the veal escalope. My radar-lugged informant swore he overheard the Sicilian strains of The Godfather waft from the table during the infamous four’s luncheon. Spellar, fumbling to switch off his mobile, revealed the source of the music. Ashcroft is more of a Blofeld – your cat-stroking villain.

Baron Mandelson of Scandals caused much mirth in northeast England by accusing the trade unions of stitching up the Labour parliamentary selections. Activists there recall the GMB fixing Hartlepool at the 1992 election for a London-based spin doctor by the name of Peter Mandelson, even providing the mustachioed metropolitan with a car. The ignoble lord’s grumbling at a Progress Tendency jamboree overlooked his own faction’s politicking. Progress acolytes speak of “our” candidates while the Tendency’s hitman, Richard Angell, is despatched to organise in constituencies targeted by the moderniser zealots. Mandelson is also miffed that his former aide Patrick Diamond hasn’t been gifted a safe seat, and this column revealed a fortnight ago that Tony Blair lobbied for Diamond to be parachuted into South Shields to succeed David Miliband. Diamond often shouts that Labour must do better in southern England. One of Ed Mili’s inner circle muttered that Diamond should put his reputation where his mouth is and fight a southern marginal instead of seeking a solid northern berth.               

Miliband’s consigliere,
Lord Wood of Anfield, is a republican, so he didn’t dress up as a peer to listen in person to the Queen’s Speech. However, he tells friends, he did wear ermine underpants. Presumably with standard Miliband hairshirt tucked in.

Kevin Maguire is the 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 20 May 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The Dream Ticket