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6 October 2021

Commons Confidential: Dominic Raab’s loose lips

Your dose of gossip from the Conservative conference.

By Kevin Maguire

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab isn’t enjoying demotion from the Foreign Office. Striding into a Midland Hotel lift, a devalued politician whose Deputy PM title is a consolation prize, was overheard groaning, “I fucking hate conference” before the doors closed to winch Mr Grumpy to his room. Back in 2008, wannabe Labour leader David Miliband spoke in one of the hotel’s lifts about a “Heseltine moment” to topple Gordon Brown without recognising BBC Scotland’s politics correspondent lurking quietly in the corner. Manchester lifts have ears, whether the doors are ajar or shut.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy “King in the North” Burnham wasn’t the only Labour figure with the “Tory scum”. Whispering Labour backbencher Barry Gardiner toured the Conservatives’ conference, button-holing potential supporters for his private members’ bill outlawing fire-and-rehire. Conservative MP for the 18th century and Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg invited the quietly spoken Corbyn-era shadow cabinet member to lunch at his Somerset stately pile to discuss employers sacking staff then re-engaging them on lower pay. I do hope nanny’s safe.

Barrelling through the exhibition area, Boris Johnson was overheard hailing former Brexit secretary David Davis. “David, what are you up to?” trilled the PM. “Causing trouble,” laughed Davis. “You keep making trouble, baby. What are you causing trouble about?” “National Insurance, tax rises, your Covid controls…” Before Davis could complete his list, Johnson accelerated away. If you don’t know the answer, never pose the question is a basic rule of politics.

After Iain Duncan Smith was hit with a traffic cone outside the Conservative conference zone, Philip Hammond may feel he escaped lightly. Remarkably, a former chancellor with the appearance of a provincial undertaker was recognised on the street by two aggressive young blokes in hooded black tops. As they shouted insults, Hammond kept walking with a nervous fixed grin. “Was it shit when Boris f***ed you off, mate?” screamed one of the pursuers. My snout saw the shouty tormentor immediately trip and fall flat on his face, and Hammond made good his escape while the other stopped to help his mate up. The chaos symbolised the economy when Funereal Phil was in the Treasury.

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