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23 November 2017

Commons Confidential: How Pestminster lives on

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Is Brexit red mist clouding the Remainiac Alastair Campbell’s judgement? Tony Blair’s aggressive former spin doctor went a bit Ukip at the Labour Leaver Gisela Stuart before the pair appeared on BBC One’s Sunday Politics. “When are you going to stop fucking up my country?” growled raging Ali. “It’s my country, too,” shot back the upset German-born Stuart, the Birmingham Edgbaston MP for two decades until quitting last June.

Campbell’s second verbal punch – “You’ve got another country to go to” – was so below the belt that, aimed by a Brextremist at a Stayer, might have had the snarling rottie denouncing xenophobia. Stuart has lived in Britain since 1974. Standing for Labour with the surname of her Bavarian parents, Gschaider, she was unsuccessful in the 1994 European elections. Three years later, under the Stuart name of her first husband, she won Edgbaston in Labour’s 1997 landslide. She never expected a loyalty test from a Labour Remainiac.

Theresa May has failed the suffragette test of deeds not words, this time over rooting out gropers on the Tory benches. The Prime Minister’s appeal for “handsy” MPs to be reported isn’t appreciated in her own whips’ office. The backbencher Andrew Bridgen’s reward for revealing that he’d passed on allegations against Dan Poulter, which, I acknowledge in the interests of fairness, the doctor and Suffolk MP denies, was a menacing buttonholing by a whip. Bridgen was warned that he’d be the most hated man in the Tory party if he referred more colleagues. That sounds like a threat to me.

One unintended consequence of police cuts is longer Labour selection meetings. The party’s international development spokeswoman, Kate Osamor, the Edmonton MP, was in a session of Tottenham’s West Green ward when a congregant who had been told that he wasn’t eligible to vote flatly declined to leave. The cops were called but the local police station answered that Tory cuts had left it with no officers to send. The protester eventually departed, presumably bored.

Back to the unguarded Nigel Farage, who, as this column last week disclosed, privately endorses a higher EU divorce offer to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The snout, who befriended the Brextremist at Lisbon Airport, whispered that the Ukip motormouth tipped Jacob Rees-Mogg for the Tory crown over Boris Johnson and David Davis.

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In Strangers’ Bar, the County Armagh-born St Helens Labour MP, Conor McGinn, was spied popping the TV remote control into his jacket pocket so English comrades couldn’t switch over from Ireland-Denmark to England-Brazil. He could have saved himself a lot of pain by letting them have it. The Republic were thumped 5-1.

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This article appears in the 22 Nov 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Europe: the new disorder