Commons confidential: why Emily Thornberry is “ready to unleash hell” over Sylvia Pankhurst

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Syria is currently the main target of the shadow foreign secretary, but Emily Thornberry will unleash hell over Sylvia Pankhurst when she’s finished shooting down Missile May. The Women’s Vote Centenary Fund has refused to donate towards the £70,000 statue of the militant suffragette planned in the MP’s Islington South and Finsbury patch. City of London Corporation bankers will contribute £10,000 for the Clerkenwell Green monument to the socialist-cum-communist yet there’ll be nowt, zero, zilch from the £1.5m government pot celebrating 100 years of female enfranchisement. Sylvia’s Conservative mother Emmeline and sister Christabel share a memorial in Westminster’s Victoria Tower Gardens. Safe suffragist Millicent Fawcett is to be lauded on a Parliament Square plinth. But the establishment pretends radical Sylvia, an opponent of the First World War and an anti-colonial campaigner, granted a state funeral when she died in Ethiopia in 1960, never existed. Thornberry, a victim of sexist “Lady Nugee” Tory taunts, isn’t happy at the airbrushing of the overlooked Pankhurst feminist from history.

Publicity-hungry Nadine Dorries is in the soup after spewing abuse over parliament’s meals. Catering staff, the head of the Commons refreshments department and her Tory colleague overseeing victuals, Paul Beresford, are all demanding apologies. The Bedfordshire Blowtorch’s outburst – “The food here is disgusting and it comes with mouse urine as a side. Most people wouldn’t give it to their dogs” – is difficult to stomach: for a five-figure TV fee, Dorries munched merrily on a camel’s toe and ostrich anus in the I’m A Celebrity jungle. The novelist could always redeploy the explanation proffered when her whereabouts, as recorded on a political blog, clashed with her expenses claims: Dorries insisted her account was “70 per cent fiction”.

No Ant, but the Dec lookalike spotted enjoying a swift half in the Strangers’ Bar was the elder brother of the shorter one who stands on the right. Father Dermott Donnelly, a Catholic priest on Tyneside, was in the House to promote youth work. Unlike Ant, fined £86,000 and banned from driving, Dec’s double wisely took public transport home from the boozer.

Former miner Kevin Barron is one of only seven MPs elected to the House of Commons with that noble first name in the past 100 years. Rother Valley’s horny-handed son of toil recalled that the nearest he came to a Labour red box was when No 10 rang to offer to him a job, until the caller twigged he wasn’t Cardiff’s Kevin Brennan, the K-man wanted by the prime minister. Over the same period it must’ve been carnage for 403 Johns. 

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 18 April 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Enoch Powell’s revenge