Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
15 January 2020

Commons Confidential: The taming of the Rottweiler

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are, I’m informed, quietly encouraging the Labour campaign of Jess Phillips, which could be a relief for Keir Starmer, who might fear the New Labour imprimatur as he tacks left. Meanwhile, the team behind Rebecca Long-Hyphen’s bid continues to implode. Her key parliamentary aide, Alex “I’m not a Stalinist” Halligan, is taking a job working for Stockport’s new MP Nav Mishra. Emily Thornberry will do well in the hustings but it’s pocket rocket Lisa Nandy who is smiling widest. Number crunchers say second choices could see her crowned the party’s first queen.

Jeremy Corbyn is driving a skeleton staff in Norman Shaw South up the wall with ideas for visits and campaigns. When he finally returns the keys in April to the opposition leader’s suite, a new office awaits in Portcullis House that was involuntarily vacated by well-liked Vernon Coaker, who blames losing his Gedling seat on Jezza’s unpopularity. Labour MPs along the corridor aren’t putting out the bunting. “There goes the neighbourhood,” groaned a disillusioned lefty.

Every MP has an embarrassing past and Luton North’s Sarah Owen admits hers to reduce the sting. The Labour newbie introduces herself as “the woman in the pink jacket standing next to the EdStone” at the 2015 unveiling of the ridiculed 2.5-metre, two-tonne monument to Miliband’s looming defeat. Should Owen require a karaoke song, I suggest Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”.

MPs continue to swap tales of spoilt ballot papers. In Tory Alec Shelbrooke’s seat of Elmet and Rothwell, a voter scrawled “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t commit suicide” on the slip. He didn’t claim it.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s Rottweiler, Gordon, isn’t looking himself. The Lancastrian enforcer had the muscular canine, named after former PM Gordon Brown, castrated to tame its aggression towards other dogs. Unruly MPs punished by the Speaker should thank their lucky stars that suspension without pay is Hoyle’s ultimate sanction in Westminster.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

The parliamentary women’s football team is looking to sign fresh talent after Labour’s Anna Turley and Laura Smith were red-carded by the electorate. Playing on the left wing is an advantage but not compulsory.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

Hustling MPs are demanding jobs in return for backing Labour wannabe leaders. Leeds’s Alex Sobel, who nominated Emily Thornberry, yearns to be the party’s chair. “I’d love to play for England so we’ll both be disappointed,” giggled a rival.

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

This article appears in the 15 Jan 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Why the left keeps losing