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18 December 2019updated 08 Jun 2021 11:29am

Commons Confidential: Long-Dreary the front-runner

By Kevin Maguire

Fizzing with conceit on a thumping 80-seat majority after a 1.2 per cent rise in his party’s vote, triumphant Boris Johnson has abandoned personal austerity. Champagne refills the Prime Minister’s glass since patches of England’s poorer, wrecked north voted blue. My snout whispers that Johnson oafishly spilled bubbly on Theresa May shortly before the pair grinned for a photograph in parliament at a Tory victory bash. I suppose that’s a marginal improvement on the most arrogant of prime ministers walking all over his human doormat predecessor.

Tory Trot Dominic Cummings remains in Downing Street to swing his wrecking ball harder (Europe, Whitehall, workers’ rights, BBC, Labour’s red wall) and it is chief strategic adviser, Edward Lister, who’s tipped to depart. Builder Steady Eddie’s lost a power battle with the demolition man and has informed close colleagues that he’ll depart No 10 after Feburary’s budget. He runs a property consultancy. During the campaign he was spied visiting a client. Beats digging a tunnel.

Mrs Merton without the laughs, Rebecca Long-Dreary, is the bookies’ favourite to be Labour’s first female leader, with the machine straining to drop a continuity Corbynite into defeated Jezza’s badly scuffed shoes. Left-wing supporters of Lisa Nandy are sustaining their challenge on grim humour. “It’s a sign of how desperate we are,” commented the Wigan warrior’s sardonic Dagenham champion Jon Cruddas, “that you’re Labour’s best hope.”

An unexpected result of Corbyn clinging on until March is that he’ll retain control of Labour’s honours nominations. Word is he offered Tom Watson a peerage when the deputy quit. So too, insists an impeccable source, did Jo Swinson if Watson defected. Could it be true that Blair and Mandelson wanted Watson to jump ship to the Libs to ensure Corbyn was never PM?

Crowing Tory dirty tricks operatives are boasting that they slipped the Jonathan Ashworth tape to the Guido Fawkes website. The original plan was to give it to a Tory tabloid but there were legal concerns over covert recording. The knocking squad is equally gleeful that Johnson’s supposedly extemporised campaign musings about scrapping the TV licence – when the Tories were on the rack over the NHS – were in fact rehearsed diversionary spontaneity.

Downing Street press secretary Robert Oxley was, I hear, the Tory spinner behind the invented puncher in Leeds whom the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and ITV’s Robert Peston refused to identify when the incident was proved untrue. Just saying.

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

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