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4 December 2019updated 09 Jul 2021 7:47am

Commons Confidential: Seumas gets his coat

By Kevin Maguire

Christmas is cancelled for Labour MEPs, with their Brussels beano the election’s latest victim. Southside Grinch Jeremy Corbyn’s party line is that frivolities are banned before 12 December. Who wants to nibble Twiglets and sip fizzy white wine, mam-and-dad dance or enjoy solidarity embraces under the mistletoe, when there are doors to be knocked on a dark, cold night in Barnsley? Disappointed MEPs grumble that the fun’s gone out of the job. Wait until they hear about Brexit.

One of the oddities of a general election is MPs are abolished and therefore barred from parliament, yet peers continue to come and go. The unelected ghostly figures haunt otherwise empty corridors. They’re not, I’m assured, entitled to claim a £305 a day tax-free stipend when the House of Cronies isn’t sitting. Free office space and car parking in central London are reward enough.

Without an amnesty there’s unlikely to be any early return to Labour membership for Alastair Campbell. The corporate PR adviser being seen campaigning in Finchley and Golders Green for the Labour defector to the Lib Dems Luciana Berger will be added to the expelled spin doctor’s charge sheet. When Libs were a distant third in the seat in 2017 and Labour a close second, re-election of Tory Mike Freer courtesy of a split opposition would be tactical only if intended to block Corbyn.

Over in Enfield Southgate the Tory challenger to Labour’s jovial Bambos Charalambous is playing dirty. Moraliser David Burrowes, who lost the seat four years ago, delivered leaflets in Labour red headed, “A Vote for Labour is a Vote for Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn”, with a photograph of the bearded socialist. Tory candidates use more pictures of Labour’s leader than his own party’s contenders. Kudos to Stephen Twigg, now retired from his second seat of Liverpool West Derby, for returning to his first to back Charalambous. Uxbridge would beat 1997’s “Were you up for Portillo?” moment. Dream on.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is either desperate or blindly indiscriminate. The mailed leaflet to a friend wasn’t worth the postage and printing. Boguslawa is Polish, on the register for council and European polls but unable to vote in general elections. And if she could, it wouldn’t be for a faction that after the 2016 referendum triggered the first racist abuse she had suffered in Britain.

Staffers mutter Corbyn’s ideological praetorian, Seumas Milne, keeps on his black overcoat with an upturned collar while gliding around the party’s eighth-floor Southside HQ in London’s Victoria. If Labour are thrashed on 12 December he might have to leave in a hurry.

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

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This article appears in the 04 Dec 2019 issue of the New Statesman, What we want