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Commons Confidential: The walking dead

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Wesminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

Defiant Tory Scot Michael Gove is searching for a Gina McMiller to take Nicola Sturgeon to the Supreme Court should an SNP-dominated Scottish parliament try to stage a second independence referendum. Seeking a Tartan clone of Gina Miller, the businesswoman and activist who legally asserted the sovereignty of the UK parliament over Brexit, is the Aberdonian Cabinet Office minister’s newest strategy. Gove, a Brextremist who dismissed experts when they correctly warned quitting the European Union would be a disaster, believes a legal case without his fingerprints would look and sound better than Downing Street enforcing a veto under the Scotland Act. Miller was abused horribly by some of Gove’s viler allies for championing democracy. McMiller would in all likelihood be hounded by vicious cybernats.

[See also: Commons Confidential: The great proletarian]

Labour’s zombie shadow cabinet of the walking dead – Keir Starmer’s failed plan to sack or move half the members (Lisa Nandy, Jonathan Ashworth, Cat Smith, Andy McDonald, etc) and reduce the portfolio of Angela Rayner – isn’t the only victim of the reshuffle kerfuffle. Also blown off course is, whispered my snout, a deal to restore the whip to former leader Jeremy Corbyn brokered between the CWU’s chief postie Dave Ward and departed chief whip Nick Brown. The agreement, along with a statement from Corbyn, was due to be unveiled after the Hartlepool by-election. Starmer’s dilemma is that, since the meltdown, every single future decision will now be viewed as weakness.


It’s a done deal, I’m told, that poacher-turned-gamekeeper Paul Dacre will be the next chair of broadcasting regulator Ofcom. The editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers and former editor of the Daily Mail joining a public sector he viciously denounced for decades is likely to require the hereditary journalist to postpone a Channel 4 series and the publication of his memoirs. One of the Ofcom perks for Dacre would be the hitherto cruelly denied knighthood he craves, Sir Paul being eager to join an establishment he trashed. Baubles to consistency.

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Peter Mandelson attempting to puppeteer Starmer through Morgan McSweeney and Jenny Chapman is tangling strings. The rest of the opposition leader’s office accuses Mandelson of briefing his influence. The leader who doesn’t like the spin should drop the doctor.

[See also: Why did Labour do better in Wales than in England? You might not like the answer]

Made in the UK, Pugin-design smart green face masks on sale in the Commons shop for £8 flatter to deceive. Inside the cotton and bamboo coverings is the warning: “Not personal protective equipment. Does not offer protection to the wearer.” That’s handy. 

This article appears in the 19 May 2021 issue of the New Statesman, In defence of meritocracy