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28 August 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 5:21pm

Commons Confidential: The unsunned spads under the cosh of Cummings

By Patrick Maguire

Chocks away for Derby North’s Chris Williamson, whose grass-roots groupies pay no heed to his suspension from Labour. The waifs and strays of the party’s Northern Irish branch – neglected like an embarrassing uncle by bods at Southside – have encouraged members to turn out for a speech by the bricklaying vegan in Belfast next week. Top of the agenda? Cuba. Labour wags joke that Ulster has suffered enough. And with trigger ballots looming, some MPs pray that the tofu Trot stays as far away from his own marginal patch as possible.

Tory Brextremists dream of felling Tom Tugendhat, the Boris-bashing Putin critic who chairs the Foreign Affairs select committee, with a very English kind of kompromat. My sovereignty-loving snout whispers that Tommy – a sometime Remain rebel – dialled up the Eurosceptic rhetoric to 11 in a bid to woo Tonbridge and Malling’s blue rinse brigade at his selection meeting in 2013. Co-conspirators are said to have the recording under lock and key, ready for release at the moment of maximum embarrassment. Ransom payable in roubles, please.

More grumbles from unsunned spads, whose sense of victimhood grows by the hour. Cabinet bag-carriers awaiting their new pay packages – the only shred of consolation in a summer that’s seen their trips to the beach replaced by no-deal prep – got a rude reminder of their raw deal via email. With the deadline for their new salaries having passed, surly spinners took it upon themselves to chase the civil servant responsible – only to learn from their out-of-office that they were on holiday. Whitehall’s not yet dancing to Dom Cummings’s tune.

Labour staffers don’t share Saint Jez’s appetite for banker-bashing. A squad of conscientious objectors romped to victory in NatWest’s annual rounders tournament for researchers last week. Tories cried foul as the young reds retained their crown. “You can’t out me,” one irate aristo moaned to a ref, “we’re in government.” True believers on Team Corbyn would run a mile before supping with City slickers, but a better metaphor for the looming election you won’t find.

Rubber chicken beckons for Neville Southall, the bin-lugging Evertonian reborn as a Corbynista cheerleader. The legendary shot-stopper will rally the troops for a fellow traveller by the name of Savage at a Labour fundraising bash in his adopted Liverpool home in October. Disappointment awaits fans of Welsh footie, however. The Savage in question isn’t tough-tackling midfielder Robbie but Liz, Labour’s candidate for Southport. Turning the last Tory redoubt on Merseyside red – no mean feat – might require some of her Marmite namesake’s trademark aggression.

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This article appears in the 28 Aug 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The long shadow of Hitler