Commons confidential: Brexit Baker backfires

Santa hats, reindeer horns, and why Jeremy Corbyn should watch ET.

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Brexit ministers call Theresa May’s significant other, the City banker Philip May, a “mad Remainer” – but the Prime Minister’s courtiers insist that she wears the £995 leather trousers. Hacks daring to raise the price of legwear in an era of squeezed wages contributed to the sacked Europe rebel Nicky Morgan’s ban from No 10 and reinforced May’s passive-aggressive media strategy. With the Tories high in the polls and Labour on the floor, this imperious blueprint aims to shut out unruly reporters.

On a three-day trip to Bahrain, the press pack was limited to eight minutes and 42 seconds with May. Three broadcasters shared ten minutes, during which May shoehorned in her clumsy “red, white and blue Brexit” soundbite. Grizzled lobby hacks grumble that even Gordon Brown granted better access. On the upside, there’s no need to hide mobile phones from her.

Brexit has gone to the head of the former Lehman Brothers tech geek Steve Baker. He advocated a Leave vote from the Tory back benches, and a snout overheard the Wycombe show-off boasting, “I’m terribly busy leading the revolution,” while lamenting the lack of acknowledgement for his significant role.

His self-promotion extends to texting scribblers on the Mail, Sun and Telegraph to alert them to his tweets, in the hope that the Tory press recognises his importance. But the sniggers in the Westminster lobby suggest that the tactic is backfiring.

Jeremy Corbyn should have another watch of ET, the Steven Spielberg film about an alien stranded on Earth, this Christmas. If he did, he might grasp why addressing his Islington neighbour Emily Thornberry as “ET” results in shadow cabinet members gnawing at their knuckles to suppress their giggles.

May’s baby-faced assassin Gavin Williamson, her young Chief Whip, might do well to keep his eyes on the road before spying on Tory Remainers. Manoeuvring out of tight spots isn’t his speciality. In Worcester for a Q&A with the local party’s blue-rinse brigade, the dizzy Williamson bumped another vehicle in the car park of the city’s Fownes Hotel. My informant reported no visible damage, other than to the Chief Whip’s pride, and suggests that Williamson cut back on the coffee.

Dan Jarvis looked uneasy in a Santa hat, while the former careworker Angela Rayner was very much at home in reindeer horns, during the recording of the screechy “National Living Rage” pop video. His shyness against her exuberance would make for an unequal leadership contest, though it was good panto.

Corbyn’s office requested, I hear, that trade unions surrender their Twitter passwords so it may post Jez-tastic praise directly. Which two complied?

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 15 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016