Commons Confidential: Why Boris Johnson can’t pull off a Jeremy Corbyn 2015-style revolt

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A liar and a bonker, Boris Johnson’s cunning plan to incite a Corbyn-esque coup to seize the Tory crown, and thus the premiership, is imperilled by secrecy. The Brextremist’s Westminster admirers, plotting a grass-roots revolt to force reluctant MPs to put him on the ballot paper – Jezza 2015-style – overlook a potentially insurmountable barrier: how Conservative MPs vote isn’t published. My Borexit snout predicted that whatever was pledged in public wouldn’t be delivered in private. “Johnson’s promises and nominations would be higher than his votes,” snarled the informant, “when we divorce him.”

Portcullis House had seen nothing like it. MPs didn’t know where to look when manspreading kilted soldiers from Australian and Canadian sister regiments of the Highlanders invaded the complex. The age-old question about what’s worn under the plaid was graphically answered. Tory whip Wendy Morton was overheard cautioning “no upkilting now” before the squaddies trooped off to lunch. For meat and two veg, presumably.

That hangover from the 18th century, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is enjoying a first-class journey to his intended Brexit. Ministers usually travel steerage to Brussels but the double-breasted Quitter was observed leaving the priciest section of the train. Nothing’s too good for a City slicker with a company capable of profiting from economic catastrophe.

New Labour’s one-time enfant terrible, Derek “Dolly” Draper, temporarily pacified a warring party at a book launch at the Institute of Directors’ plush Pall Mall lair. To put Peter Mandelson, Ken Livingstone and Len McCluskey in the same room without a fight breaking out was disappointing. Hitler obsessive Livingstone complained that Iran’s Press TV is the only station prepared to give him regular airtime. I can think of a prominent Labour figure, who earned £20,000 presenting shows on the channel, who might wish Tehran would also pull the plug.

Controversial rules shielding MPs under investigation also forbid complainants publicly disclosing they’ve lodged grievances. So nowhere official will you read that Tory one-man-attack-unit Andrew Bridgen formally accused Corbyn of failing to register his Tunis “peace” trip. Bridgen was warned he could be disciplined for blabbing. “Free the North West Leicestershire One” is the campaign Jezza wouldn’t back.

The constituency office of John Woodcock MP in Ulverston remains festooned with Barrow Labour Party signs. Does he hope to return to the party or has word of his quitting still to reach Cumbrian comrades?

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 14 September 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The return of fascism

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