His popularity plummeting, waning Boris Johnson’s toxic dependency on Dominic Cummings is likened to Theresa May’s reliance on Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Tories predict a similarly inglorious parting. With Damaged Dom struggling and chief strategic adviser Eddie Lister described as MIA when he’s working from home, my snout whispered that Whitehall’s reasserting itself. Career civil servant Simon Case has been parachuted into No 10 to head the Covid-19 response, leaving Cummings without a meaningful role. Rather than Cummings reforming the civil service, the civil service is preparing his Domexit.
Robotic Suella Braverman wasn’t appointed Attorney General to think for herself. After the law officer loyally declared rule-breaker Cummings innocent, a fellow panellist recalled a BBC Question Time appearance. As the show rolled on, the floor under Braverman’s chair became a carpet of Post-it notes discarded after she regurgitated lines to take. The only instruction missing was breathe in, breathe out.
Who betrayed Penny Mordaunt? The Paymaster General, decried as “Poison Pen” by government whips, was shopped by a colleague who forwarded her messages asking MPs if they thought Cummings should go. Labour and Keir Starmer are the official opposition. The enemy lurks in parliamentary party WhatsApp groups as MPs return to the Commons.
The answer for Tea Room Tories puzzled that their newbie Nickie Aiken calls Labour wit Kevin Brennan “Sir” is that he taught the Westminster MP economics in a previous life. Brennan jokes that he must have been a lousy teacher when the Radyr Comp pupil in Cardiff grew up to be a Conservative.
Sir is certainly cheeky. Brennan once blagged his way into a glitzy Brits party by pretending to be Sajid Javid, guessing correctly that the then culture secretary’s profile was so low the bouncers wouldn’t recognise him. If challenged, the fall-back position was to claim Sajid is Welsh for David.
Counter-culture regret among Jeremy Corbyn’s critics after the former Labour leader continued his losing streak record in the PLP. He was pipped by monochrome Eurobore Geraint Davies and others to represent Labour on a Council of Europe delegation. “This is a disaster,” wailed a Corbynsceptic, “because we’ll now be stuck all the time with him in Westminster.” Quite.
On the rack for controversially approving a £1bn property deal benefiting Tory donor Richard Desmond, Housing Secretary Robert “four homes” Jenrick’s innate mediocrity may be a protection. Scathing Tory backbenchers call their undistinguished colleague Robert Generic.
Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror.
This article appears in the 03 Jun 2020 issue of the New Statesman, We can't breathe