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15 September 2016

Commons confidential: the cha-cha-chancellor

Osborne stumbles, Corbyn humbled, and how Labour MPs are taking the news about Keith Vaz.

By Kevin Maguire

The TUC’s Pasionaria, Frances O’Grady, gave Jeremy Corbyn a masterclass in speaking at the union movement’s annual dinner at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. His rambling address was, a snout groaned, as appetising as reheated offal, while hers was a tasty soufflé. The witty O’Grady teased younger MPs about a time when there was competition for the shadow cabinet. Most of those present agreed that O’Grady would make a better Labour leader.

Political cover-ups don’t come bigger than Strictly Come Dancing’s desire for the redundant shadow cha-cha-chancellor Ed “Glitter” Balls’s body. “They want me to stand in just a pair of paper shorts to be sprayed with tan,” the hip-op mover was overheard musing. Share prices of tan suppliers are likely to soar, given the industrial quantities required for the beefy Labour clodhopper. And what next for a man who a few years ago hobnobbed with the world’s presidents, prime ministers and chancellors? “I’ll probably end up in pantomime in Walsall.” He would make a good Buttons.

The one-time Tory Master of the Universe “Sir” George Osborne is also stumbling forward. The former chancellor, brutally disposed of when Theresa May swapped her kitten heels for a pair of Rosa Klebb razor shoes, is quite picky. “I’m not going to bother,” my radar-lugged snout earwigged Osborne whining, “to read Nick Clegg’s book.” The truth might hurt: Clegg, Lib Dumb deputy premier in the ConDem coalition, accuses the Buller Boys Osborne and Dave Cameron of cutting welfare for fun and refusing to build council houses because Labour voters live in them. Hard hats and hi-vis jackets can’t rewrite history.

The undisguised glee in Westminster at the downfall of Keith Vaz tells its own story about his reputation. Cheers were heard at the Home Office when the obsessive Vazerminator, the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, popped up on TV to help bury the then home affairs committee chairman. Labour MPs still raise their eyebrows, laugh, or do both. For the most pompous of politicians, mockery must be painful. But not everyone knows about Vaz’s contribution to London’s night-time economy. The repetition by the Amber Valley MP, Nigel Mills, of Vaz’s bon mot “We need to get this party started” went straight over the head of Paul Beresford, the chair of the administration committee, when its start was delayed to see if its most infamous member would turn up (he didn’t). Beresford, a dentist, is considered so unworldly he probably thinks the “poppers” involved were party streamers.

The Glaswegian SNP MP and Unison activist Chris Stephens calls Jeremy Corbyn “The Cat”. Why? “Labour MPs kick him out and he keeps coming back.”

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

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This article appears in the 14 Sep 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The fall of the golden generation