Commons confidential: Michael Gove's secrets

John Shannon's trainers, a sleeping Johnson, and the well-beaten path from Auntie to the Tories.

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All due respect to the Scouser John McDonnell, but the shadow chancellor should revert to condemning focus groups as a waste of money, as he did in the New Labour era, when the Manchester panel convened by the party preposterously rated him “posh”. The bus driver’s son and former trade union official is many things, but grand and swanky are not among them.

A shadow cabinet regular recalled McDonnell briefing earlier findings. Voters approved rail renationalisation, raising tax to revive the NHS and spending more on social care, until Jeremy Corbyn’s name was appended to the policies. Labour didn’t need to pay punters £50 each to discover what people tell activists for free on doorsteps.

Evidently it’s tiring work, being universities minister. Thanks to the snout who showed me pictures of Jo “Brother of” Johnson after a visit to Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, fast asleep on the train home to Euston at 3.20 in the afternoon. Perhaps he was dreaming of the Bullingdon Club days when he’d just be getting up around that time after a riotous night’s hooraying.

Would the BBC journalist pipped at the post to be Theresa May’s mouthpiece kindly out themselves? The contender, I’m told, was on a shortlist of two and endured a mock lobby briefing, in which No 10 officials pose as hacks and yell hostile questions, before the PM picked the Daily Mail’s James Slack as her official spokesperson. I have a name and do not impugn the journo’s broadcasting impartiality, but the well-beaten path from Auntie to the Tories eviscerates right-whinge conspiracy theories that the BBC is a left-wing plot. (If only.)

BBC Look East’s onetime reporter Clive Lewis did, however, complete his own transition from telly bod to politico when the Labour Remainer for Norwich South resigned as Corbyn’s shadow business secretary. Complaining about cameras outside his house is to see life from the other side.

The secret that the transatlantic media mogul and right-wing power player Rupert Murdoch sat in on his smoochathon with Donald Trump wasn’t the only memento that Michael Gove brought back from New York. Gormless Gove’s daughter caused a stir by turning up at her London school with a Trump “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.

The hapless Jeremy Hunt shrugged off a request by the Orangeman Jim Shannon for the Health Secretary to monitor injuries inflicted by ill-fitting trainers. The expenses of Shannon, a DUP member once voted Westminster’s least sexy MP, are legendary. Perhaps he’s interested in acquiring a pair to run for the gravy train. 

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 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times

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