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26 February 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 3:53pm

Commons Confidential: Becky’s haughty couture jibe backfires

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

Rebecca Long-Bailey’s haughty couture dig at Keir Starmer’s expense – “We don’t win elections by just putting a suit on and trying to look like the most electable person in the room” – backfired, as the Continuity Corbynite also usually wears suits, yet rarely appears the most electable candidate in Labour hustings. Lisa Nandy’s camp talks up the possibility of their Wigan Warrior pipping the Salford Slugger into second place behind a Stormin’ Starmer that both rivals privately concede is most likely to win. Joint events between Long-Bailey and her flatmate Angela Rayner – the clear favourite to be elected deputy leader – have been quietly dropped. Rayner’s team fear the Becky link damages their Ange.

One-time Black Rod Lieutenant General David Leakey mobilised forces to block a peerage for former Commons Speaker John Bercow, prompting a snout to recall a previous clash between the establishment figure from the Lords and a taxi driver’s son who championed change. Bercow wanted a group of cleaners and waiters who’d won a ballot of Westminster’s grafters to sit at the front for Barack Obama’s landmark address to both Houses of Parliament in 2011. Leakey, alleged my informant, was involved in preparations at the time, and put his foot down and insisted that protocol dictated that grandees would occupy the most prized seats. 

Good luck to Ed Sheeran’s ginger doppelgänger, Stewart Wood, with the inaugural “Civility in Politics” awards he’s helping to front. Unsurprisingly, Tory tantrum tots Dominic Cummings and Priti Patel aren’t shortlisted, but nominees do include a glacially polite Andrea Leadsom, who accused Bercow of bullying and calling her a “stupid woman”. Lord Wood of Anfield, as the courteous Labour ex-No 10 aide is titled these days, was once barged out of the way by an angry Gordon Brown.  The big test on the night will be for the losers pretending to be delighted for the winners, sustaining Botoxed smiles while seething resentfully inside.

After being pressured into stepping down as interim chair of his old Leicester East constituency Labour party, I hear Keith “Jim the washing machine salesman” Vaz also remains sore over how he was forced to stand down as an MP. Having been suspended from parliament for six months over allegations he offered to buy drugs for sex workers and failed to cooperate with a Commons inquiry, Vaz was visited in hospital by Labour hit-women Karie Murphy and Amy Jackson. The bedside pair demanded he quit, Murphy giving his forehead an assassin’s kiss as they departed. Armando Iannucci couldn’t invent satire as sinister as grim reality.

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This article appears in the 26 Feb 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The death of privacy