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29 January 2020

Commons Confidential: Trot flogging and dirty tricks

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

“We are delighted that you can join us,” reads the Brextremist aristocracy’s invitation, “for our private drinks party celebration at The Cavalry and Guards Club on 31 January.” Nigel Farage and Richard Tice’s lavish bash reminds us that not everyone will be equal when flag-waving extremists gather in Parliament Square for their independence day. The masses get an 11pm band to sing “God Save the Queen” in the cold before a “private transfer option” at 11.30pm ferries the thirst among equals to a champagne celebration. One of the chosen nationalist nobility guffawed that wealthy Tice is almost certainly picking up the bill. Hannah Arendt argued that the elite leading a mob ends in totalitarianism. Or perhaps in a Friday night in a stuffy Piccadilly gentlemen’s club for the Brexit few not the many.

The Trot selling the SWP organ the Socialist Worker at a Blyth Valley Labour dinner – during which Jeremy Corbyn hailed a smiling Rebecca Long-Bailey as “our candidate for leader” – made the evening feel very 1980s. The Northumberland left-fest began, spluttered my snout, with a transphobic joke that Corbyn conveniently appeared not to hear. To be 70 and partially mutton has its uses.

Two ministers have now boasted the Tory dirty tricks department is digging into “call me mister” Sir Keir Starmer’s spell as director of public prosecutions to unleash hell should he wear the Labour crown. The former senior civil servant leaves little to chance, so I presume he’s hiring a team of cleaners to scrub away smears he was the terrorists’ friend as DPP. Corbyn never fully recovered from instant abuse after not singing the national anthem followed by fabricated claims about refusing to kneel before Her Maj.

Starmer’s main rival, Long-Bailey, was required, I’m told, to guarantee Karie Murphy and Seumas Milne prominent roles should she head a new regime, which sounds pretty much like the old in trendier spectacles. The Corbynista vanguard is determined to defend the revolution, whatever the electoral cost.

Downing Street’s latest mailman, press secretary Jack Doyle, previously accepted a job on the Sun before getting cold feet and voting to remain at the Mail, pocketing more of Viscount Rothermere’s golden guineas. Smart call, since the Sun’s Hillsborough history added to the Spectator’s “self-pity city” Liverpool howl under Boris Johnson’s editorship would have jeopardised Doyle’s transfer from Murdoch’s red top to No 10’s blues.

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Peer Doug Hoyle’s age is listed as 89 but a family member insists the father of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is really 93. Could House of Lords members be rolling back the years to avoid retirement? l

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

This article appears in the 29 Jan 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Over and out