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22 January 2020

Commons Confidential: Bad-mouthing No 10’s Comical Ali

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Civil war in Rebecca Long-Bailey’s vanguard is the most intriguing side of Labour’s leadership tussle. The latest dispute to emerge was over distancing her from Corbynism to shed the heavy mantle of being the continuity candidate. She ignored advice to distance herself from another player in the same faction, Richard Burgon, and his assertion that Labour won the arguments in the election despite losing 60 seats. Long-Hyphen nominated her flatmate Angela Rayner rather than Burgon for deputy, and the theory was that shredding Burgon’s Arthur Scargill tribute act would present the Salford Svetlana as her own woman.

Hacks in the Tory press are bad-mouthing Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s Comical Ali. Downing Street’s £140,000-a-year spin chief, who as a young reporter pecked at Tory politicians while dressed as a Daily Mirror giant chicken, is accused of withholding stories and photographs from usually loyal rags demanding rewards for helping Johnson into Downing Street. One aggrieved political editor darkly muttered that bitter divorce would cut short Johnson’s tabloid honeymoon on the right-hand side of Fleet Street. We can but hope.

Eat your heart out, lightweight Tom Watson. Labour’s get-fit peer-in-waiting faces a formidable rival in a battle of the diets. Swansea slimmer Carolyn Harris shed seven stone to be fit for Keir Starmer’s leadership drive. The mischievous former dinner lady quips that her secret is fighting for votes at breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Diabetes called time on Lindsay Hoyle sipping eight cans of Coca-Cola a day, but the teetotal Commons Speaker still runs the gauntlet passing drinkers at the quaint Bob Inn in Chorley’s covered market. Bibulous regulars shout “order, order” at the Lancashire town’s political celebrity. Mellow Hoyle’s chuckle and cheery wave don’t call last orders on what’s becoming a local tradition.

Johnson’s forthcoming US trip to kneel in front of Donald Trump and beg for a trade deal from the America First nationalist is causing palpitations in the Westminster lobby. Journalists sweat recalling Theresa May’s first visit, when many of the travelling press were initially barred from the White House. Journalists giving their date of birth British-style day-month instead of US month-day were blocked if born on the 13th or later. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg was untroubled. Her birthday is 8 August

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Comrade Corbyn’s Leonid Zamyatin, Seumas Milne, has kept a diary during his time as the Labour leader’s chief propagandist. Party workers await his book on how Labour won the 2019 election.

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