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6 October 2016

Commons confidential: The shiny new politics of Theresa May

Tory tat, more Balls, and how Theresa May keeps the Tories on their toes.

By Kevin Maguire

Theresa May’s Imelda Marcos tribute act, the PM’s self-confessed shoe extravagance extending to a £215 pair of silver-capped, black suede slippers for her inaugural leader’s speech in Birmingham, is keeping the cabinet on its toes. A prominent member muttered that May glances down and judges a man by his footwear. So my informant makes sure his brogues are shiny before going to No 10. Stains on the rear of suit trousers signify a recent conflab, ministers standing on one pin to polish a shoe on the other calf. It’s the PM’s contribution to cleaning up Tory politics.

The source of grumbles about Europe has shifted. In the 28 years since Thatcher’s Bruges speech, and perhaps even longer than that, Tory Europhobes generated the loudest discontent. No longer. Now that the swivel-eyed dictate a harder Brexit, it’s dispossessed Europhiles, symbolised by the lippy Anna Soubry, who chunter noisy rebellion. May will struggle to hold together the unmerry band when every event produces two polar interpretations.

“Hello, Kevin, it’s Sir Craig, Sir Craig Oliver.” The knight of the realm accosting this columnist in the pasty queue at Euston Station was indeed David Cameron’s redundant spinner. Sir Craig evidently took exception to a tweet applauding the damage inflicted on the honours system by his notorious “K”. This encounter on the way to Brum was a foretaste of Touchy Oliver’s “call me Craig” train crash on Andrew Marr’s Sunday sofa. Yet it’s Theresa May who should be fretting. A Sunday lobby hack from a Tory paper informed the benighted knight he would welcome his return. Gripes are audible about the new PM’s media operation.

Paraphernalia sold at the conference tat stall included a £30 cushion with a print of John Major’s bespectacled countenance. Imagine my shock at the suggestion by a ribald parliamentarian that the item would make the perfect gift for Edwina Currie. “She’s probably sat on his face before,” he chuckled.

Word surfaces of tensions between Labour’s two men of action, Clive Lewis and Dan Jarvis. Lewis, the shadow defence secretary who served in Afghanistan with the Territorial Army, is whispered to be irritated that the Corbynistas were prepared to offer his post to Jarvis, a former major and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, if that would lure the former Para on to Jezza’s front bench. Jarvis, I’m told, won’t sign up but would stand if shadow cabinet elections return. Stand easy.

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The clodhopping Ed “Glitter” Balls is to sidestep Strictly Come Dancing’s money-spinning tour of Britain’s ballrooms. Is the one-time shadow charleston of the Exchequer about to waltz into a big job? We shall know soon enough.

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

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This article appears in the 05 Oct 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's triumph