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12 October 2017

Commons Confidential: Jeremy Corbyn goes back to Glastonbury

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Frugal John McDonnell is earning an enviable reputation as one of the cheapest dates on the Labour fundraising circuit. The downside is that host MPs must clean their bathrooms. The pennywise shadow chancellor rejects offers of a hotel in favour of a spare room during overnight stays on constituency visits. Thus on an excursion to Jarrow the hair shirt lefty declined four-star comfort for Stephen Hepburn MP’s back bedroom in a small semi on a council estate across the road from a dual carriageway. Keeping it real, northern style.

There were jolly jumps when galloping MPs were invited to free nosebags and a gratis night in a Newmarket hotel this week with their or somebody else’s partner. Tewkesbury horsey Tory Laurence Robertson’s email (forwarded by a filly who replied neigh) stressed that the tab for “a very interesting and enjoyable visit” to the home of flat racing would be picked up by the British Horseracing Authority. Other politicians are fast out of the stalls for a freebie.

Fevered speculation over Ruth Davidson flying south to prop up the wilting May Queen jolted a snout to recall sitting next to the Tartan Tory in London City Airport. Her breakfast of black pudding and poached eggs prompted widespread envy. May could take the Tory out of Scotland but she couldn’t take Scotland out of this Tory. And probably wouldn’t want to.

Fair do’s when roads minister Jesse Norman piloted a 90-minute “tea room surgery” to discuss cars, buses and cycling over a cuppa. The plea for MPs to fill five vacant slots suggested that perhaps the only Woodcraft Folk pioneer in history to abandon camp fires for Eton and the Conservative Party is once again venturing down a lonely track.

Oh, Je-rem-y Cor-byn’s returning to Glastonbury this month to open a small social housing estate on land donated by the festival impresario Michael Eavis. The homes will be named after Margaret Bondfield. Corbyn’s conference speech name-checked the Brighton draper’s shop assistant who was Britain’s first female cabinet member in 1929, as minister of labour. One of the Dear Leader’s apparatchiks whispered that if the banks or FTSE 100 corporations clamouring to meet Corbyn wish him to drop by, they should name a cupboard after Tony Benn or the recently departed trade union leader Rodney Bickerstaffe.

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The last word on that disastrous Tory conference goes to the party’s Doris Karloff. On hearing a gasp, my snout shaking hands with the unemployed at a urinal looked round to see Ann Widdecombe had bumbled into the Gents. Her “this isn’t for me” as she beat a hasty retreat was the understatement of the week.

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This article appears in the 11 Oct 2017 issue of the New Statesman, How May crumbled