Commons Confidential: Corbyn’s summertime blues

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It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s morale not his health that’s causing concern in the Labour leader’s inner circle. One shadow cabinet intimate whispered that the despondent veteran had confided fears he’d lose a leadership challenge. Splits in his camp, dissent over Europe and anti-Semitism charges are undermining Corbyn’s spirits. Claims that Whitehall mandarins had questioned his fitness to govern unleashed an anger to prove them wrong. Long-time comrade John McDonnell has joined those urging Corbyn to revamp his office. The shadow chancellor blames it for vetoing an intended Observer piece in which, according to a source, Corbyn would have unequivocally embraced saving Britain in Europe with a fresh referendum. Everything has changed.

Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt succeeding Theresa May will allow Downing Street’s head of operations, Richard Jackson, to leave his backpack at home on trips with the prime minister. The uncomplaining official, regularly photographed behind May on the Brussels red carpet, actually is her bag carrier. Hidden inside his rucksack is the PM’s handbag.

Rebecca Long-Bailey’s status as favoured successor saw her nominated to speak at this month’s Durham Miners’ Gala after Corbyn (and, separately, Sadiq Khan) declined invitations. Unless his diary or mind changes, it will be the first “Big Meeting” missed by Corbyn since becoming Labour leader.

PLP chair John Cryer was reunited with the Westminster party’s missing historic gavel and silver base inscribed with names of past holders. Cheryl Gillan on the rival Tory 1922 Committee took the Labour shop steward’s kit into protective custody after it was left in Committee Room 14. After decades banging rowdy meetings to order, the original hammer rivals the broom of road sweeper Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, with its 17 new heads and 14 new handles. Going cheap is Cryer’s hastily purchased replacement mallet and block. The substitute gavel’s much larger so perhaps he should keep it for when Labour MPs are noisily revolting.

The Midlands Engine is as unloved as the Northern Poorhouse by English Home Counties Conservatives. Whitehall figures regurgitated by a snout reveal the business department’s proposing to slash support by 75 per cent to £500,000 from £2m. Not so much a motor of growth in the heart of Blighty as spluttering spin.

Discretion, alas, is why Richard Ratcliffe’s camp declines to name a pushy MP who viewed his Iranian embassy hunger strike solely as a personal photo op. Our unidentified female parliamentarian in a hurry had to be asked not to follow him to the toilet to obtain her quick snap. 

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 05 July 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The Corbyn delusion