Commons Confidential: John McDonnell's Kapital concerns

Plus: Labour wars, sexist bores and Ashcroft's birthday bash.

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John McDonnell’s reincarnation as an iron shadow chancellor preaching “Financial discipline, comrades, financial discipline” seems still more startling after a tale told by the TUC apparatchik Kay Carberry at her retirement bash. On enlisting at Congress House, she joined the weekly book club, only to discover that every meeting studied the same volume – Das Kapital. “Imagine my surprise that the book group’s convenor,” she told the party, “is now the shadow chancellor.” Marx must be turning in his Highgate mausoleum.

The abstentionist opponents of McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn in Westminster have coined a new description for party colleagues accused of collaborating with the leadership by accepting front-bench roles: Vichy Labour.

To the shy and retiring Tory billionaire Michael Ashcroft’s lavish 70th birthday bash at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Of the Tory troika jostling to replace Cameron, Boris Johnson and Theresa May paid their respects but George Osborne noticeably stayed away. If the mischievous peer follows up his Cameron biog with Call Me George, eye-watering tales from the Chancer of the Exchequer’s old friend Natalie “Mistress Pain” Rowe would surely leave the Piers Gaveston Society, with its pig’s head and private parts, resembling a vicar’s tea party. Dodgy Dave and Boy George, by the way, dispute all lurid allegations.

And to York, where Liberal Democrat survivors of the May massacre huddled together at a spring-clean conference to put Tory collusion behind them. The churchy Tim Farron’s patriotic case for Britain not leaving Europe included the linguist’s boast of a German grade 2 CSE (equivalent to a D in GCSE money), and Latin from reading Asterix books. The pious trade on authenticity, yet Farron left nearly the full pint of beer he posed with for the cameras. The late Charlie Kennedy, a victim of the demon drink, would have struggled to walk out of the pub.

David Davis, Tory Action Man, remains unconvinced by McDonnell’s political makeover, viewing the power behind Corbyn’s throne as an old-time Stalinist. “He’d guarantee you a very grand show trial for deviation and thought crimes,” the SAS reservist tittered to a visitor waiting for an audience with the Labour revisionist, “before we’re forced to start looking for your unmarked grave.” That sounds more like a fate awaiting Tory Brexit rebels, including Davis.

The irony was gloriously lost on the BBC man-bod who spent two minutes urging Sally Hunt, the lecturers’ University and College Union leader, to straighten her hair before a TV interview . . . on equality. On International Women’s Day.

Kevin Maguire is the 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 17 March 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Spring double issue