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2 June 2021updated 06 Jul 2021 8:45am

Commons Confidential: Cautionism, not socialism

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster. 

By Kevin Maguire

One organisation planning a mass gathering later in the year, instead of waiting until Boris Johnson announces whether England’s Covid-19 restrictions will remain after 21 June, is the Conservative Party. The Tories are charging exhibitors up to £51,600 (including VAT) for combined physical and virtual stands at its Manchester four-day conference in October. I trust ensuring the party money-spinner goes ahead won’t influence Johnson’s decision. Whoever selected a publicity shot for the fringe guide presumably didn’t recognise that the journalist sitting in the front row is Owen Bennett. He wrote a book exposing Michael Gove’s cocaine snorting, then left the Daily Telegraph over an allegation of inappropriate behaviour at his former employer HuffPost UK. Unfortunate choice.

[See also: Why delaying the 21 June unlocking is such a political headache for Boris Johnson]

Fed up with Downing Street grabbing announcements for Johnson, ministers are now bellyaching that the Treasury is also media blocking in advance of this autumn’s comprehensive spending review. To be overshadowed by the Prime Minister must be irritating, a big footing by the Chancellor deeply frustrating. It’s like surviving a mugging by a big boy only to find his little friend comes along and demands your pocket money.

Labour’s shadow cabinet is going off the record to bypass a leader’s office insisting all media interviews are approved in advance. When little interest in what the opposition says is a wider problem, the party might do better if gags were replaced with drinks vouchers for members securing the most column inches and airtime. One Labourite grumbled Keir Starmer’s creed is “Cautionism not socialism”: What do we want? We’re not sure. When do we want it? We’ll let you know in good time.

[See also: Why Rishi Sunak is to blame for the government’s underfunding of schools]

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The word is No 10 assured Paul Dacre that Johnson still wants him to chair Ofcom, as a rerun process began after an interview panel displayed admirable independence by raising concerns about the former Daily Mail editor’s impartiality. The four-horse race was down, I understand, to Dacre and Ed Vaizey, an ex-culture minister and now a Tory peer. Both must reapply if still interested. Perhaps all applicants should be informed that membership of the Tory Party and/or evidence of right-wing politics are prerequisites.

Quitting as an unpaid PPS last year to spend more time with his family, Mansfield moneybags Ben Bradley could be on as much as £136,000 from two part-time positions as an MP and recently elected Tory leader of Nottinghamshire County Council. Bradley voted against feeding children during the holidays, linking vouchers with crack dens. Justifying double-jobbing, he compared himself to Johnson, who is PM and a constituency MP. I doubt Johnson likens himself to Bradley. 

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[See also: Keir Starmer played Piers Morgan at his own game and won]

This article appears in the 02 Jun 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Return of the West