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19 February 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 4:08pm

Commons Confidential: Lindsay Hoyle’s most solemn duty

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Flustered Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s propaganda chief who used to dress as a Tory-taunting Daily Mirror chicken, is in a flap. Downing Street’s spin doctor spits feathers, whisper special advisers, whenever doorstepped cabinet ministers utter anything more than a cheery “good morning” to TV crews camped outside their homes. So what does Cain do about increasingly unhinged aide Dominic Cummings’s agitprop box office reactions to journalists? Nothing. Spads giggle Cain’s happy to bawl out ministers but is intimidated by his misfit weirdo No 10 line manager.

Labour wannabes are an unhappy troupe. Lisa Nandy’s team is demanding Rebecca Long-Bailey’s camp ceases wrongly claiming that only the Salford Svetlana opposed the Tory 2015 welfare bill. Nandy was on maternity leave yet issued a statement at the time opposing the cuts, and even Keir Starmer voted against on the third reading after earlier abstaining. Two requests by Nandy’s campaign chair Louise Haigh for Long-Bailey’s consigliere, Jon Lansman, to retract and apologise go unanswered. The Momentum godfather is unabashed.

Ruthless Jon Lansman moving into Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency set local tongues wagging. The talk is Lansman fancies his chances of inheriting the seat from Corbyn, who’d be 75 by a 2024 election. “Everything Jon does is a political calculation,” muttered a left-wing rival, “including where to live.”

The Labour machine is cranked up for Long-Bailey but Southside dissidents are fighting a rearguard action. Inside Labour’s HQ a fundraising apparatchik was overheard telling a potential donor: “Of course we’ve got to do everything to stop that Rebecca Long-Bailey.” No blank cheques then.

Countryside Alliance pleas for Westminster’s finest to buy £50 raffle tickets to win a pair of Beretta shotguns predictably backfired. My source said very few were bought. It’s a modern world when a draw for a year’s supply of Greggs vegan sausage rolls might raise more money.

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When MPs return from a half-term break Lindsay Hoyle performs his most solemn duty as the occupant of the big chair: selecting the Speaker’s Whisky. It’s a nice little earner for the Commons shop when nearly 2,000 bottles a year are sold at £29 a pop. Hoyle rarely drinks alcohol so is inviting lobby hacks to taste potential malts. What could possibly go wrong?

Unite the Union tough guy Steve Turner mused that he had met Michel Barnier in Brussels but Boris Johnson won’t see him in Downing Street. There in a nutshell is why the Tory right wanted out of Europe.

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

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This article appears in the 19 Feb 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The age of pandemics