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Commons Confidential: A Comedy of Errors

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Sajid Javid considers his 15 minutes as chancellor of the Exchequer to be unfinished business. Forced out by Dominic Cummings, he missed a pandemic which put Treasury successor Rishi Sunak in pole position to succeed Boris Johnson. Javid’s closest associates whisper the banker, earning a fortune on the side (£300,000 from two financial institutions including JP Morgan, speeches, shares, rents, etc), is prepared to “take a big pay cut” to rejoin the cabinet. That could be bad news for Dominic Raab, unless the Foreign Secretary fancies more nights in his own bed and a potential upgrading of his First Secretary of State title to deputy PM.

Claims and counterclaims over accusations that Johnson skipped early Covid meetings to write a Shakespeare biography jolted the memory of a snout. He recalled the Prime Minister keyboard Bard-bashing during the 2019 Tory leadership contest, leaving others to do the heavy lifting while the dauphin worked on a money-spinner. All’s Well That Ends Well for Johnson in his Comedy of Errors.

Pitcairn Islands’ 43 permanent inhabitants, who are largely descended from Fletcher Christian’s HMS Bounty mutineers, are back on Liz Truss’s map. The International Trade Secretary thinks a British overseas territory 9,000 miles from home is the key to a Brexit trade deal with Ocean’s Eleven – the Trans-Pacific Partnership of nations stretching from Japan and Australia to Canada and Chile. My unimpressed trade informant predicted two hopes of it happening: Bob Hope and no hope.

Tory Campaign Headquarters fears another by-election through a recall petition. Delyn MP Rob Roberts is likely to be dumped by the party if he doesn’t stand down from the North Wales seat he won from Labour in 2019, after an independent panel recommended a six-week Commons suspension for sexual misconduct. The punishment, if implemented, is longer than the statutory ten or more sitting days which in law allows 10 per cent of locals to trigger a by-election. The Tories briefly lost Brecon and Radnorshire in Mid Wales to the Lib Dems by re-running Chris Davies in a recall by-election after he pleaded guilty to fiddling expenses. I’m told the mistake wouldn’t be repeated.

Former justice minister and MP Phillip Lee, who swapped the Tories for the Lib Dems before the 2019 election, is entitled to be miffed. The GP isn’t his new party’s candidate in a Chesham and Amersham by-election where the party instead picked marketing executive Sarah Green, claiming that it might overturn a 16,223 Tory majority bequeathed by Cheryl Gillan. Defectors are garlanded one day, ignored the next. 

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[see also: Commons Confidential: The walking dead]

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This article appears in the 26 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The new Toryism