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4 January 2018

Commons Confidential: The miserly Mr Davis

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The silly boy Gavin “Private Pike” Williamson heads a band of cabinet ministers confident of surviving Theresa May’s reshuffle. The ambitious former chief whip manoeuvred himself into his Defence Secretary post only last November after allegations of Michael Fallon’s handsy Pestminster past emerged. Private Pike defeated Sir Humphrey, Jeremy Heywood. The word is that the cabinet secretary advised May to replace Fallon with Alan “Dinky” Duncan, Boris Johnson’s rebellious deputy in the Foreign Office. Heywood’s declining powers are creating vacuums that rival factions are fighting to fill in May’s shaky regime.

The ranks in the Ministry of Gloom, also known as the Department for Exiting the European Union, wouldn’t mourn the passing of the broken-nosed David Davis. The former SAS reservist’s underlings Steve Baker and Robin Walker chipped in £20 each for staff drinks. My snout grumbled that Inaction Man Davis’s unopened wallet didn’t go unnoticed. The tight Brextremist could always plead poverty: he owes Michel Barnier up to £39bn.

Labour’s normally unflappable Chris Bryant is recovering from an unbooked surprise at a hotel in Bath. Opening the door to his room, he found it occupied by a fully clothed man with a naked woman. Jokes on a postcard to the Rhondda MP, please. It was a long way from the usual complimentary mini-bottle of wine. Bryant beat a hasty retreat to the reception. It was a misunderstanding rather than a tabloid sex sting, obviously.

The popular Sports and Social Club in parliament is scheduled to reopen on 8 January after it was shut temporarily following an alleged assault. The watering hole’s rowdy reputation is undeserved. My informant slurred that the nearest it comes to a riot is 4pm when regulars switch TV channels to Tipping Point and shout answers at the host Ben Shephard in the arcade-style quiz show. The bar is better behaved than the Commons chamber, and better informed.

Labour’s Stephen Pound ran a faster service than Royal Mail when he was a London bus conductor. On 27 December, the Ealing Lip received an official greeting card postmarked the 22nd advising him that the 21st was the final day for Christmas posting. Only profits move with speed in a corporation flogged on the cheap: Royal Mail’s profits were up 25 per cent last year to £335m.

Lib Dem crisis corner: Vince Cable didn’t enjoy the first Paddington film, so he was among the few politicians not to watch Paddington 2 over the holidays. You’d think that audiences cheering a Peruvian refugee wrongly jailed in Britain would be the avuncular leader’s target voters. I sniff a Lib U-turn to embrace the bear. 

This article appears in the 03 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Young vs Old