Commons Confidential: Nicky Morgan’s wildly fluctuating vowels

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Nothing was too good for the workers at a jovial Speaker’s House bash celebrating the TUC’s 150th birthday. The prosecco flowed (champagne is so CBI), dainty canapés were nibbled and flowery speeches consumed. Brother Bercow led a Black Rod-inspired door banging announcement of TUC president Sally Hunt before the Speaker apologised for being hostile to unions in his wild young Tory days. The Business Secretary, Comrade Greg Clark, laughed his way through a pointed if cheerful ribbing from Frances O’Grady, the “no pasarán” of the Labour movement. Proposing the formal toast, Labour’s Lords leader, Angela Smith, admitted she enjoyed honouring organisations younger than her (she’s 59) before remarking that a “Committee for the Useful Classes” pre-dated the TUC. Mercifully, it vanished or politicians, and I dare say journalists too, would’ve been barred from the commemoration.

An interesting insight into the mindset of Tory Remainer Nicky Morgan during a York University discussion. The Treasury select committee chair slipped into an angry northern working-class male voice while discussing pro-Brexit emails, then adopted a posh southern middle-class female tone to describe anti-Brexit messages. Luckily, the privately educated lawyer’s Loughborough constituency is in the Midlands.

One-time Labour universities minister John Denham, now professor of English identity at Winchester University, was explicit about Brexit’s great class divide at the same York seminar. Denham recounted former government colleague Chris Smith, master of Cambridge University’s Pembroke College, declaring that all the dons voted to stay in the EU and all the porters and cleaners to leave. Two nations beneath the dreaming spires.

Grandfatherly Alf Dubs, saviour of child refugees, found himself chatting companionably to a Tory type who introduced himself as a former MEP. The conversation turned to Boris Johnson. The Labour peer declared he’d no time for the lying buffoon and, dipping a hand into his jacket top pocket, gleefully brandished his “Sack Boris” travel card holder from the 2012 London mayoral election. “You a fan of Boris?” inquired Dubs. “Yes, of course,” spluttered the ex-MEP, “he’s my son.” Dubs’s failure to recognise Stanley “I’m a Celebrity” Johnson means he probably thinks Love Island is in the Galapagos archipelago.

Well-upholstered Tory peer Tom Strathclyde, lugging a heavy leather sports bag down a corridor, prompted a snout to remark that the grandee recently collected another nice little earner as chair of defence company Raytheon. That’s nine City jobs for Tubby Tom. The bag was large enough for a month’s earnings.

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 15 June 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Who sunk Brexit?