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27 February 2019

Commons Confidential: Corbyn’s eviction notices

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Labour splitters might be on the move again as their abandoned party demands the return of plush offices in parliament’s Portcullis House. Senior whip Mark Tami, Labour’s enforcer, is preparing eviction notices for Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith and Mike Gapes. Tory defector Sarah Wollaston, occupying a much-envied palatial corner suite in the Norman Shaw complex, may also fear packing cases from Conservative whips. The struggle for centrism requires personal sacrifices, if not by-elections. The Independent Group will surely accept Upper Committee Corridor windowless boxes as a price worth paying.

Emily Thornberry’s leadership ambitions took a hit when her declaration that she’d rather die than join another party was noisily denounced in the tea room as “cheap” by a female Labour MP, who vowed never to vote for the shadow foreign secretary. The Tories’ publicly softer line towards their three defectors is, however, skin-deep. “We’ve all been ordered to profess they’re welcome back,” spluttered my snout, “but there would be absolute hell if they returned. Mrs See, Hear and Speak No Evil are as popular as Jacob Rees-Mogg in a vegan anarchist squat.”

Awkward team photos in Nando’s show Chuka and chums’ “new politics” is the contrived old with peri-peri sauce. The Labour escape dates back to early 9 June 2017, when general election gains dismayed Corbyn’s critics. Splitter Chris Leslie whined, “It’s a disaster, it’s a disaster” to perplexed newbie Alex Norris, celebrating his debut victory in Nottingham North. Labour’s majority spiralling to 19,590 in Leslie’s Nottingham East constituency was indeed a disaster for a quitter who would fail to keep the seat.

Here’s conclusive evidence Winston Churchill was never as popular as today’s myth-makers pretend. Labour’s former chief whip Hilary Armstrong, born 30 November 1945, revealed her teacher mam proposed falsifying the birth certificate to save her daughter going through life sharing a birthday with a Tory wartime leader booted out by voters.

Is one-time enfant terrible Peter Tatchell succumbing to the establishment’s warm embrace? The courageous human rights campaigner’s name was spied by an informant on the list of the National Liberal Club’s prospective members (joining fee £399, annual subs £798). What do we want? Comfy armchairs. When do we want them? Now.

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Theresa May’s Blackmail Brexit, with pivotal votes delayed until 12-14 March, infuriated gambling MPs. The main event is in the middle of horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival. Fall at the final fence and she’ll be unseated.

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Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

This article appears in the 27 Feb 2019 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit broke politics