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5 February 2020

Commons Confidential: Zac Goldsmith’s Eton messy writing

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Frustrated Tories are grumbling they don’t count when Boris Johnson sits atop a commanding majority. The Prime Minister informing a ten-year-old schoolboy he’s likely to give HS2 a green light, having approved Huawei’s hotline to the 5G network, triggered disquiet among those yearning for a change of direction. Iain Duncan Smith was overheard moaning how the government has gone back to the future. “We’ve got May with a majority of 80,” whined the Chingford carper. To “get Brexit done” might prove Johnson’s gravest mistake when there’s little Conservative unity on other issues.

Move over Corrie’s Steve and Tracy for Ed and Yvette. Talk in Westminster is of a potential cameo for Balls and Cooper in a TV sitcom co-written by their good friend Tom Riordan, whose day job is chief executive of Leeds city council. The comedy, about Yorkshire declaring independence, is with telly suits and would tick a northern box. John Prescott played himself in a Gavin & Stacey episode. Balls-Cooper wearing flat caps and calling everyone “duck” would challenge Yorkshire stereotypes.

Brextremist aristocracy celebrated getting their country back with reactionary comedian Jim Davidson telling a very vulgar joke at the expense of Nicola Sturgeon to roars of laughter in the Cavalry and Guards Club, a Piccadilly gentlemen’s hideaway. Nigel Farage led the carousing over the national self-harm that is quitting the EU, along with Richard Tice and speculator Ben Habib. When briefly a Brexit Party MEP, Habib’s declared second job annual earnings of €960,000 were the European Parliament’s highest. Brexit never looked more of a giant scam by a nationalist wealthy elite.

Sniffy peers wonder if Zac Goldsmith was taught to hold a pen at Eton. Resurrected by Johnson in the House of Cronies after the good people of Richmond Park gave him the order of the boot at the general election, Lord Goldsmith’s handwriting is raising eyebrows. A barely legible “My Lords” and a mark masquerading as a signature required deciphering on an Environment Bill letter. Using a biro instead of a quill dipped into a pot of swan’s blood might help.

The murmurs of disapproval as Rebecca Long-Bailey urged supporters at a south London rally to stop branding Labour opponents “Tories” was a sign from diehard Corbynites that Labour’s strife won’t end, whoever becomes the new leader. The bearded messiah’s cultists face the irreconcilables who never accepted Corbyn’s authority and are now fighting for any candidate not called Long-Bailey. Each side has more in common than either would care to admit. 

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This article appears in the 05 Feb 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Europe after Brexit