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Commons Confidential: The great proletarian

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Wesminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Jeremy Corbyn’s problem was that everybody knew him. Keir Starmer’s problem is that nobody knew him until his election defeats and a botched reshuffle. Shadow cabinet members accused Starmer of snatching defeat from the jaws of consolation when the scapegoating of Angela Rayner eclipsed victories – from Greater Manchester and Merseyside to the West of England and Worthing – that could have brightened the gloomy Hartlepool narrative. Starmer’s office accused one of Rayner’s team of a string of hostile briefings before she was bumped. The last deputy leader, Tom Watson, also lost the party chair in a punishment beating delivered by Corbyn in 2017. Rayner’s consolation prize of four jobs, including shadow secretary of state for the future of work, will keep her busy, if not out of trouble.

[See also: Peter Mandelson: “I’m afraid Keir Starmer has come badly unstuck”]

English nationalist Boris Johnson, who is staying out of a Scotland where he is as popular as dry rot in a caber, was credited by a Conservative snout as pivotal in denying Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP their referendum majority. The downside of electoral gains in England, grumbled another, is that Johnson may stick with fun sponge Amanda Milling, a Tory party co-chair who makes Theresa May appear dynamic. Conservative associations fear Milling will go on a nationwide tour when lockdown is over.

[See also: Tony Blair: Without total change Labour will die]

Red Wall blue brick Richard Holden’s anti-litter crusading is in a mess after the North West Durham Tory was slapped with a £100 fixed penalty notice for throwing a cigarette butt onto the pavement outside an election count in the town of Stanley. The litterbug MP, 36 going on 56, was spotted by a council warden. He has previously lectured constituents not to be “litter tossers”. Holden was given ten days to pay or the fine rises to £150. It cannot be claimed on expenses.

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Comrades of Brummie MP Khalid Mahmood mocked the former shadow defence minister’s choice of pedestal for claiming after Hartlepool that Labour “has lost touch with ordinary British people” and been captured by “a London-based bourgeoisie”. The remarks appeared on the site of Policy Exchange, a London-based right-wing think tank founded by a Tory clique including Michael Gove, which is paying Mahmood £2,000 a month for 15 hours’ head scratching. How very proletarian.

[See also: Why I will never forgive Boris Johnson for the damage he has done to the country I love]

London Assembly members keeping abreast of a newly elected Green, Zack Polanski, noted the hypnotherapist once claimed in the Sun that he could harness the power of thought to enlarge a woman’s embonpoint. The reporter sent to his £220-a-session Harley Street clinic by the paper claimed her bust expanded four sizes before reducing. Deflated Polanski, a former Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, apologised for a misogynistic experiment.

This article appears in the 12 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Without total change Labour will die