Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
25 March 2020

Commons Confidential: Classic Dom goes strangely quiet

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

The strain is showing publicly on Boris Johnson and I’m told that Dominic Cummings isn’t his usual cocky self. The puppet master pulling the Prime Marionette’s strings did him no favours with bad advice, relying on herd immunity to keep down the coronavirus body bags. My Tory informant reports that Cummings isn’t quite as loud or strident. Winning a Brexit vote with a £350m lie written on the side of a red bus isn’t replicated by throwing folk under a pandemic bus. One day a master of the universe, the next a black hole.

During Boris Johnson’s blasé days about a fortnight ago, when washing our hands was his strategy to defeat coronavirus, Whitehall’s nudge unit warned people would get bored if asked to make sacrifices too early. Now the panicking PM is belatedly issuing draconian edicts, the behavioural insights boffins may find grim confirmation of their fatigue theory in the Health Secretary. Matt Hancock and three minions had to be asked to use hand sanitiser before a Good Morning Britain interview in ITV’s Millbank studios. Piers Morgan wouldn’t approve of unsafe behaviour from a little squirt preaching cleanliness to the country.

Whether tellers counting votes in Labour’s leadership battle are classed as key workers depends on which candidate activists back. If it is likely winner Keir Starmer, that’s a yes. Probable loser Rebecca Long-Bailey and it’s a no. The declaration’s set for 4 April yet there’s a rearguard action to halt the election, citing May’s cancelled council contests as supporting evidence. A race so long it began in another era is stumbling into a new world.

Keepers of the Jezza flame are planning a Corbyn Foundation that makes Richard Burgon’s Tony Benn University look like a good idea. Perhaps it could offer courses on losing consecutive general elections. The cult’s messiah is likely to suffer an adulation deficit as speaking engagements dry up. He was miffed, I hear, when July’s Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival didn’t repeat its invitations of the past few years to address the Dorset crowd. Covid-19 scything the annual gathering avoids a diplomatic incident.

Son of privilege Bernard Jenkin was sweating after Labour shouted “object” to block Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sneaky motion outside normal standing orders to parachute No 10’s Brextremist chum into the £15,000 chair of the liaison committee. Previously the post was decided by chairs of other Westminster committees. Johnson’s chumocracy is anxious to reward a co-conspirator pipped to the defence committee seat by ex-minister Tobias Ellwood. Blue prince Bernie must be worrying that his benefactor’s mind is on bigger issues.

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.

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

This article appears in the 25 Mar 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The crisis chancellor