Johnson and Gove. Photo: Getty
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Commons Confidential: Are Gove and Boris about to team up again?

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

Michael Gove is preparing to bury the hatchet with Boris Johnson – and next time, it won’t be deep between the blond ambition’s shoulder blades. Tory confidants of the weedy Environment Secretary whisper that he will support BoJo all the way when his fellow Brextremist gropes for the May Queen’s slipping crown.

Hurt by justified accusations of treachery after ditching his fellow conspirator last year to pursue his unsuccessful leadership bid, the Gover would be 100 per cent loyal to Johnson 2.0 in a replay, a well-connected snout said.

Jeremy Corbyn’s internal critics are largely silent in public, if not in private. The Bitter Labour faction’s latest line of attack is to mock the Dear Leader as a glove puppet manipulated by the fingers of “the Five Ms”: McDonnell (John), McCluskey (Len), Milne (Seumas), Murphy (Karie) and Murray (Andrew). Chuck in Marx (Karl) and the lurking plotters could concoct a supernumerary conspiracy for a witch trial.

Bloodcurdling howls and terrified screams spiced up the annual dinner of the North Durham Labour Party, at which yours truly won, in absentia, a raffled bottle of Commons whisky.

The star guest, Tom Watson, was ordered by the former defence minister Kevan Jones to address the assembled throng before dinner “so we can enjoy ourselves for the whole evening”. The piercing cries erupting during Deputy Dawg Watson’s peroration in Beamish Hall were from a horror show on the hotel’s grounds. Memo to self: check whether the local Conservative association was meeting al fresco.

Lost seats are breeding jealousy and disunity in a once-solid SNP Westminster group. A grizzled male Nat MP surprised diners he had never met before – including my reliable informant – by accusing the media darling Mhairi Black of thickening her accent and passing herself off as working class when she is the daughter of teachers. It has taken two years and an election setback, but the Tartan Army has become just another seething pit of angry rivalries. Excellent!

The one-time Foreign Office minister and current shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd is having his leg pulled after returning to the Mock-Gothic Fun Palace in June as MP for Rochdale. Lloyd was previously a police and crime commissioner and interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and he stood down as Manchester Central MP in 2012. These days, he is called “the Doc”. Drinking buddies tease that he has regenerated more often than Doctor Who.

Mammon meets Marx: in the City, a stockbroker mumbled that his firm has started reading the Morning Star as well as the Financial Times to keep tabs on Corbyn. No Morning Star, no comment. 

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 first appeared in the 19 October 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s century of revolutions

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Commons Confidential: Tories turn on “Lord Snooty”

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

With the Good Friday Agreement’s 20th anniversary rapidly approaching, Jeremy Corbyn’s office is scrambling to devise a celebration that doesn’t include Tony Blair. Peace in Northern Ireland is a sparkling jewel in the former prime minister’s crown, perhaps the most precious legacy of the Blair era. But peace in Labour is more elusive. Comrade Corbyn’s plot to airbrush the previous party leader out of the picture is personal. Refusing to share a Brexit referendum platform with Blair and wishing to put him in the dock over Iraq were political. Northern Ireland is more intimate: Corbyn was pilloried for IRA talks and Blair threatened to withdraw the whip after the Islington North MP met Gerry Adams before the 1997 election. The Labour plan, by the way, is to keep the celebrations real – focusing on humble folk, not grandees such as Blair.

Beleaguered Tory Europeans call Brextremist backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg – the hard-line European Research Group’s even harder line no-dealer – “Lord Snooty” behind his back. The Edwardian poshie, who orchestrates Theresa May’s taxpayer-funded Militant Tendency (members of the Brexit party within a party are able to claim “research” fees on expenses), is beginning to grate. My irritated snout moaned that the Beano was more fun and twice as informative as the Tories’ own Lord Snooty.

Labour’s Brexit fissures are getting bigger but Remainers are also far from united. I’m told that Andy Slaughter MP is yet to forgive Chuka Umunna for an “ill-timed” pro-EU amendment to last June’s Queen’s Speech, which led to Slaughter’s sacking from the front bench for voting to stay in the single market. The word is that a looming customs union showdown could trigger more Labexits unless Jezza embraces tariff-free trade.

Cold war warriors encouraging a dodgy Czech spy to smear Comrade Corbyn couldn’t be further from the truth about his foreign adventures. In Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Corbyn recalled spending a night in Burundi pumping up footballs. The club offered to donate shirts for an aid trip but he asked for the balls to be shared by entire African villages. He was War on Want, not Kim Philby.

Screaming patriot Andrew Rosindell, the chairman of an obscure flags and heraldry committee, is to host a lecture in parliament on the Union Jack. I once witnessed the Romford Tory MP dress Buster, his bull terrier, in a flag waistcoat to greet Maggie Thatcher. She walked past without noticing.

A Tory MP mused that Iain Duncan Smith was nearly nicknamed “Smithy”, not “IDS”, for his 2001 leadership campaign. Smithy would still have proved a lousy commander.
 

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 first appeared in the 22 February 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia