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7 October 2020

Commons Confidential: The art of revenge

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke, inheritor of jailed “Naughty Tory” husband Charlie’s Dover seat, pocketed £25,000 for telling the Sun about the impact on their family of his conviction for sexual assaults. Her entry in the register of members’ financial interests states she spent 12 hours being interviewed for two articles that appeared in August. Bad news is evidently lucrative news. My disapproving informant muttered the payment should be donated to a victims’ charity.

In a crowded field, Wycombe MP Steve Baker, former chair of the European Research Group, may be the most self-important man in Westminster. Handling media requests for Tory MPs threatening to rebel over coronavirus laws, the former RAF engineer issued a strict template for bids from broadcasters, including the name of programme, interviewer, time, etc. The regimentation was a world away from trade deal chaos unleashed by the Brextremist and his co-conspirators.

Shut lefty eatery the Gay Hussar has reopened in London’s Soho as a Noble Rot restaurant, with a giant triptych by Martin Rowson in a first-floor suite named after the celebrated Daily Mirror and Guardian cartoonist. Characters in the majestic sweep of history include Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Nye Bevan, Karl Marx, Peter Cook, and the Kray twins, plus Michael Gove and Liam Fox from the current Tory crop. Panhandling in a doorway is a less recognisable figure. He’s George Brock, former managing editor of the Times, drawn as a dosser because he dispensed with the artist’s services many moons ago. Rowson’s revenge is a goulash best served cold.

Coronavirus wheezing is shared by that pair of ailing leaders, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, so the Prime Minister’s “balderdash”’ dismissal of Long Covid rumours raised eyebrows in No 10. My snout believes the PM’s lungs were damaged by his insistence that he mustn’t be put in an induced coma as it would undermine national morale. Johnson’s anxious to starve the claim of oxygen.

Tough love from James Bethell, a health minister taking pride in the government’s Covid response, which he insultingly compared to the London 2012 Olympics. Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis-Hill might’ve made a better fist of combating the plague. The Tory peer boasted he’d kicked out of his car two miles from home noisy kids then aged ten, seven and five, who made their way back walking through a river. Hello, is that Childline?

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The House of Commons is advertising for a £29,876-a-year mechanic to service and wind parliament’s clocks, including Big Ben. With interviews to be held in the middle of October, time’s run out for applications. 

This article appears in the 07 Oct 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Long Covid