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26 October 2017

Commons Confidential: Another windfall for the DUP

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, is no Angus Robertson. Darwin’s theory of evolution doesn’t apply to politicians; Nat MPs grumble that Blackford stumbles at Prime Minister’s Questions, which Robertson had owned before he lost his seat in June’s Highland clearance. Blackford ousted Charlie Kennedy in Ross, Skye and Lochaber, then was banned from the Lib Dem’s funeral after a very dirty election campaign.

In a party that leans left, the wealthy investment banker’s registered interests include financial links to a funeral planning business. His nickname “the Undertaker” reflects the gloomy mood of the bereft Nats.

Theresa May’s orange mercenaries in the Bung Parliament brag that propping up the Tories is good for party coffers. A bowler-hatted snout boasted that interest in the DUP’s annual conference in Belfast in November is unprecedented, with business beating a path to the Unionists’ door. Perhaps the DUP will inform companies what it intends to let May do about Brexit.

Social conservatism, too, on Humberside, where Hull West’s Emma Hardy was asked by a local BBC radio station to avoid saying “vagina” on air before discussing vaginal mesh implants. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in the privacy of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, judged his department wrong to oppose limiting the devices. He cut off the legs of the underling Jackie Doyle-Price, who defends them in public.

Next month, a Labour crew to champion struggling coastal communities with trawlers will be launched. “We have modelled Labour Friends of Fishing shamelessly on the successful Labour Friends of the Forces,” boast the Grimsby skipper, Melanie Onn, and her Plymouth first mate, Luke Pollard. How appropriate that Cod Wars and gunboats should resurface after Brexit.

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A wag dubbed the “Wedding March” over footage of the Labour MP Stephen Pound supporting rheumatoid arthritis sufferer Paul Flynn down the aisle of the Commons chamber to present Flynn’s bill legalising the medicinal use of cannabis. “I’m not of that persuasion, but if I had to spend the rest of my life with a man,” mused Pound, “I could think of no finer companion than Paul.”

The Cartoon Awards jogged Hogarth disciple Martin Rowson to recall observing Ken Livingstone and Jack Straw avoiding each other at a previous event.

“We’ve hated each other’s guts since 1970,” drawled Red Ken. To sustain a feud for nearly half a century is impressive, even by the standards of a party doubling as a club for people who detest each other.

This article appears in the 25 Oct 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Poor Britannia