Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
24 March 2021updated 25 Mar 2021 11:30am

Commons Confidential: The return of Lembit Öpik

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Wesminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Cabinet collective responsibility for Covid clamps shut the plummy mouth of the MP for the 18th century, Jacob Rees-Mogg, in public. But not, it seems, in private. I’m reliably informed he reassures Conservative Covidiots that he shares their contempt for the slow pace of Boris Johnson’s restriction-easing roadmap, yet must vote for the timetable to remain Leader of the House. Draw a Venn diagram and there is a significant overlap between the anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group and the EU-despising European Research Group. Rees-Smug was prominent in the ERG and now quietly encourages the CRG from the cabinet table, suddenly afraid to speak his truth to power to avoid being sacked by the PM.

HMS Penny Mordaunt is the latest minister overheard fearing decommission in the forthcoming reshuffle. The Paymaster General and Pompey MP is worried Johnson might sack her a second time. Mordaunt, a former equalities minister, declaring “trans men are men and trans women are women” in the Commons created waves with the current holder of the post, Liz Truss, who adopts a culture war view and reflects No 10’s opportunism.

The Conservative Party’s recent online event “How to Stop the Lib Dems with Lembit Öpik” is earning the colourful ex-MP and one-time other half of a Cheeky Girl much abuse from former colleagues. One suggested the surest way of beating the Lib Dems was to pick Öpik as a candidate after he lost Montgomeryshire, a seat held by the party for nearly all the preceding 100 years.

[see also: Commons Confidential: The cabinet reactionary]

MPs gardening, embracing DIY or building Lego models during lockdown are overshadowed by Cardiff West’s musician MP Kevin Brennan, who has written and recorded an album. The Clown & the Cigarette Girl, to be released by Revolver in July, is named after a childhood photograph of the Labour MP dressed as a circus entertainer and his sister Nuala as a nightclub purveyor of ciggies from a tray. Name the album from a snap today and Brennan might be singing about The Clown & the Nicotine Patch.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. 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. 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.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

The anger of a voter who rang the constituency office of the Elmet and Rothwell Tory Alec Shelbrooke demanding he voted that week to make misogyny a hate crime was molten when she was told no. The fury increased to Vesuvius level when a staffer explained this was because the bill was in the House of Lords, not Commons.

NS reader Andrew Rivett, a Brighton accountant, arrived to collect 18 bound volumes of the mag looking for a new home as I returned from a six-mile run. Sweating and panting, I was too exhausted to blub while waving farewell to copies dating back to 1979. Exercise is good for emotional as well as physical health. 

This article appears in the 24 Mar 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Spring special 2021