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19 October 2017

Commons Confidential: Are Gove and Boris about to team up again?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Michael Gove is preparing to bury the hatchet with Boris Johnson – and next time, it won’t be deep between the blond ambition’s shoulder blades. Tory confidants of the weedy Environment Secretary whisper that he will support BoJo all the way when his fellow Brextremist gropes for the May Queen’s slipping crown.

Hurt by justified accusations of treachery after ditching his fellow conspirator last year to pursue his unsuccessful leadership bid, the Gover would be 100 per cent loyal to Johnson 2.0 in a replay, a well-connected snout said.

Jeremy Corbyn’s internal critics are largely silent in public, if not in private. The Bitter Labour faction’s latest line of attack is to mock the Dear Leader as a glove puppet manipulated by the fingers of “the Five Ms”: McDonnell (John), McCluskey (Len), Milne (Seumas), Murphy (Karie) and Murray (Andrew). Chuck in Marx (Karl) and the lurking plotters could concoct a supernumerary conspiracy for a witch trial.

Bloodcurdling howls and terrified screams spiced up the annual dinner of the North Durham Labour Party, at which yours truly won, in absentia, a raffled bottle of Commons whisky.

The star guest, Tom Watson, was ordered by the former defence minister Kevan Jones to address the assembled throng before dinner “so we can enjoy ourselves for the whole evening”. The piercing cries erupting during Deputy Dawg Watson’s peroration in Beamish Hall were from a horror show on the hotel’s grounds. Memo to self: check whether the local Conservative association was meeting al fresco.

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Lost seats are breeding jealousy and disunity in a once-solid SNP Westminster group. A grizzled male Nat MP surprised diners he had never met before – including my reliable informant – by accusing the media darling Mhairi Black of thickening her accent and passing herself off as working class when she is the daughter of teachers. It has taken two years and an election setback, but the Tartan Army has become just another seething pit of angry rivalries. Excellent!

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The one-time Foreign Office minister and current shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd is having his leg pulled after returning to the Mock-Gothic Fun Palace in June as MP for Rochdale. Lloyd was previously a police and crime commissioner and interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and he stood down as Manchester Central MP in 2012. These days, he is called “the Doc”. Drinking buddies tease that he has regenerated more often than Doctor Who.

Mammon meets Marx: in the City, a stockbroker mumbled that his firm has started reading the Morning Star as well as the Financial Times to keep tabs on Corbyn. No Morning Star, no comment. 

This article appears in the 18 Oct 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s century of revolutions