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11 January 2018

Commons confidential: comrades at war

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Panicking Theresa May inflamed burning injustices by sending for hammer of the disabled, Esther McVey, after Justine Greening declined to implement the benefits fatwa. The relish with which the new anti-welfare secretary kicked financial crutches from the vulnerable  contributed heavily to McVile’s 2015 loss of her Wirral seat (she snuck back to Westminster last year via George Osborne’s old Tatton constituency). A former May No 10 adviser whispered that tin-eared Theresa isn’t only clueless about how struggling people live but unsympathetic. Frustrated aides recall failing to cajole the PM into adopting a £10m fund to help families pay for funerals of dead children during a campaign by Swansea Labour MP Carolyn Harris whose son Martin, eight, was run over and killed when she was a young mum struggling financially. May, whispered my snout, maintained that the costs of burials were the responsibility of the grieving.

Parliament’s £34-a-tour brigade of casual guides, including former coppers and lifers who know every inch of the place, are revolting over a plot by Westminster authorities to replace them from October with blue-coated visitor engagement assistants. Out would go decades of experience and entertaining anecdotes. In would come officially-approved bland scripts hailing the Palace of Varieties as the envy of the world. The great dispensed, darkly blaming cost-cutting and creeping bureaucratisation, are pleading with MPs to spare them from the penury guillotine.

My mole in the West Midlands mutters that Chris Evans’s Labour doppelganger, Ian Austin, sounded out a local newspaper editor about a bid to succeed the region’s Tory mayor, Andy Street. Defending a majority of only 22 votes in Dudley North, Austin’s fallen out badly with Corbynistas. In a Portcullis House confrontation, he initially refused to walk through a door held open by Derby lefty Chris Williamson, then objected to being addressed as comrade. To misquote Nye Bevan: “Socialism is the language of petty rivalries.”

The Tory chumocracy’s lascivious slimeball Toby Young enjoys a good living out of state education, pocketing nearly £100,000 a year alone as director of the free schools-promoting and largely taxpayer-funded New Schools Network. The Labour sisterhood informs me that Wigan warrior Lisa Nandy was the possessor of the, ahem, embonpoint he tweeted about in 2012 and not the then Airdrie MP Pamela Nash, as Young mistakenly claimed.

“Shiiiit” echoed through Portcullis House a while back. Croydon Tory Chris Philp had dropped his lunch. It hurt momentarily to lose a seat on the gravy train. l

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This article appears in the 10 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Toddler in chief