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13 March 2019

Commons Confidential: Owen Smith is not going anywhere

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Con MPs worry Brextremist erupting volcano Mark Francois will explode into tiny pieces of rock. The molten-faced nationalist, whose BBC Politics Live stare-off with Will Self continued off air – the author sarcastically wishing the former armed forces minister good luck with his codpiece, and Francois menacingly returning fire in wishing Self good luck with his life – is losing friends and alienating colleagues. Breaking point was him sneeringly labelling the haplessly bland Robin Walker a Brexit minister who “arrived at the big time and is doing well” when the Worcester wallflower deputised for Theresa May. “Rudeness and discourtesy are unacceptable,” fumed an incandescent Tory, “and even the ERG think Mark’s a liability.” Perhaps flaming Francois could ask polite extremist Jacob Rees-Mogg if manners maketh the man.

Labour enforcer Nick Brown is fire-fighting in his own office. The word in members’ lobby is that the opposition’s Francis Urquhart deployed fearsome charm to dissuade a trio of whips from quitting by strong-arming them to, for now, stay and serve. Also going nowhere (insert own joke) is Owen Smith. The defeated Tribunite challenger to Corbyn in 2016 rebuffed a direct approach from Chuka and chums’ Tiggers. Labour is Smith’s party and he’ll cry if he wants to.

Gallows humour from the DUP’s Ian “Baby Doc” Paisley on seeing the stitched back of Chris Bryant’s shaved head after melanoma surgery left the Rhondda rumbler resembling the victim of a baseball bat. “I’d have done it for less,” grinned the Antrim avenger. Bryant feared the wound would be reopened when Tory former soldier Iain Duncan Smith slapped him heartily on the back to express physical solidarity.

Shadow educashon secretary Angela Rayner’s taking a risk listening to New Labour’s anthem, “Things Can Only Get Better”, on her earphones. Should word get out, keyboard warriors treating the 1997 campaign theme as damning evidence of political incorrectness will be tapping away. Back then, Rayner was a teenage mam and at 38 is a glamorous gran. She was observed in a reception replacing high heels with comfortable soft footwear then overhead chuckling they were her “Gilf” slippers. What could she mean?

Fascinating assertion from a snout insisting Hungary’s fascistic Viktor Orbán worked briefly as a caretaker in Surbiton while living the good life in Britain during 1989-90. The snout’s source is a contemporary of the Fidesz fanatic. Oxford’s Pembroke College scrubbed out notorious political science post-grad Orban from a list of famous students. The London suburb may be hoping to brush off the jaundiced janitor too. 

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

This article appears in the 13 Mar 2019 issue of the New Statesman, She’s lost control