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16 June 2016

Commons Confidential: A prize parliamentary pet

Plus: how an SNP MP ended up voting while wearing a wedding dress.

By Kevin Maguire

Michael Gove, with the taste of victory on his lips, couldn’t be smugger. The word in both Tory camps is that, whether the Brexiters win or lose, the Injustice Secretary will be promoted to chancellor of the Exchequer by David Cameron or Boris Johnson – whoever is prime minister after the 23 June referendum.

A Cameron unity reshuffle is tipped for September, assuming that Britain opts to remain in Europe (thus keeping him in Downing Street), with increasing talk in Westminster that George Osborne will move to the Foreign Office to revive his leadership ambitions, with Gove installed at the Treasury. If Leave triumphs, whispered my Tory snout, Johnson will reward “the Gover” with the same post.

Downing Street has its snouts, too. In the Parliamentary Press Gallery, an office is shared by the Sun, the London Evening Standard, Channel 4 and ITV. Hacks who would prefer not to be overheard stand at the top of a staircase to answer and make calls. Tory MPs sitting at the bottom of those stairs to sign letters and so on are, I’m informed, eavesdropping and passing on information to No 10. Careless talk costs contacts . . .

Noting her German roots, the Labour Leaver Gisela Stuart prompted a Labour Remainer to recall how she once ignored party advice suggesting that she adopt her husband’s surname instead of Gschaider when she stood for the European Parliament in Worcestershire and South Warwickshire in 1994. She lost but was elected three years later as the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston as a Stuart. Perhaps her success is the answer to an old question: “What’s in a name?”

MPs with a dog, cat, budgie or goldfish are invited by the Southend Tory David Amess to enter their creature into a “parliamentary pet of the year” competition to find Westminster’s “happiest and healthiest” little friend. My snout barked that Cameron should submit Sir David Amess, a toady knighted for “political service”, or what the whips know as obedience.

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Boris Johnson’s inability to tell the truth in a Sunday Times interview when asked if he dyes his hair – yes means no, apparently – tickled No 10. I reported last July that Downing Street had spotted a “chlorine tinge” that suggested a bottle barnet. Not that Cameron can snigger. Dave’s is thought to be blackened to mask a saucer-sized bald spot, hidden beneath a weave. A disloyal Tory MP sniggered that when he’s in the shower, the PM’s wet strands must hang longer than Rapunzel’s.

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The Scottish MP Natalie McGarry voted in a wedding dress after wearing the bridal outfit for a blessing of her marriage to the Glasgow Tory councillor David Meikle in the chapel at parliament. Suspended by the SNP, she still voted Yes!

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

This article appears in the 14 Jun 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Britain on the brink