Commons Confidential: Corbyn's past putsch

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The Chipping Norton set won’t be re-formed. David Cameron, I hear, has been advised to give no second chances to Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired protégée of the Sun King, Rupert Murdoch. The Prime Minister’s media consigliere, Craig Oliver, has apparently outlawed institutional and social contact between Cameron and his old friend, now that the arch-networker Brooks has been reinstalled as News UK’s chief exec. So: no country suppers, gallops on retired police horses, weekends at Chequers, chats in the Downing Street flat or cosy text messages.

Yet shunning an innocent Brooks may prove difficult for a Tory who governs Britain as a chumocracy. The ghosts of indignities past would soon return, were Dave to be snapped standing next to Rebekah.

Cruel humiliations continue to be heaped on Ed Miliband. Suddenly to become invisible must hurt, though not as much as a particularly painful case of mistaken identity. A snout on the Dubai-to-London leg of Miliband’s return journey from holidaying in Australia tells me that nobody recognised the former would-be PM – until, that is, he kindled the interest of an Essex family.

“Oh, my God,” the father exclaimed, “it’s that Cameron fella!” On the ground, the man who wasn’t Cameron behaved as though he still had Labour staff on hand to fetch and carry for their leader. Miliband stood texting in the baggage reclaim hall, my snout recalled, as his wife, Justine, grabbed their luggage from the conveyor belt.

Miliband’s successor will be Jeremy Corbyn, unless the polls are spectacularly wrong. Speaking for his party at PMQs would be a giant leap forward for an MP who has spent the past 32 years on the back benches.

Yet it wouldn’t be his first appearance at the despatch box. A Labour veteran recalled a putsch when Betty Boothroyd was speaker. Corbyn, Dennis Skinner and Tony Banks were part of a republican squad that stayed in the Commons after MPs trooped to the Lords for the Queen’s Speech. They took turns at the despatch box to move socialist bills, including one for the abolition of the monarchy, and were eventually caught by Boothroyd. A mike had been left on. The micro-revolution was overheard by a local radio station.

The summer storm over Lord Sewel and his orange bra hasn’t deterred guests from attending social events inside the House of Cronies. Every week, a dozen or more elderly ladies and gents show up at the peers’ entrance to attend a bridge club. Perhaps the public should be relieved that they aren’t there for strip poker.

The Tories are charging advertisers £3,250 for a page in their party conference guide. Labour is asking £4,400. The cost of opposition has gone up.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article appears in the 10 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Syria: the world order crumbles

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