Commons Confidential: Milne and Mandelson’s love-in

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Private plane owner Grant Shapps is another of Boris Johnson’s cabinet chumocracy laying down red box law. The Transport Secretary – who ran a get-rich-quick scheme under the nom de plume Michael Green and boasted his car was so big it had a fridge – “will pay attention to the font size and margins of the document” warns a private office memo. “Submissions should be no longer than two pages,” Whitehall officials are told, “with no exceptions and no annexes.” Brexit Tories are proving pernickety in their new posts, topped by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comma obsession. For capping briefings at two A4, Shapps is now known as “Dual Carriageway” to civil servants.

Labour MPs whisper firebrand Laura Pidcock is replacing Rebecca Long-Bailey as the favoured successor of Jeremy Corbyn’s camp when the leader decides to spend more time weeding his allotment. There’s talk of giving the Durham left-winger a higher profile and shadow cabinet promotion. Pidcock’s also billed as a working class rival to Angela Rayner – though in north-east England the daughter of a social worker and an office manager would be considered middle class.

Brextremist no dealer Andrea Jenkyns should see this coming. Tory colleagues are whispering that the Morley and Outwood MP’s detestation of Europe is guided by tarot cards and seances. One mischievously suggested Jenkyns told Theresa May that the spirit of a deceased uncle demanded she oppose the then PM’s exit plan. A little bit of Ed Balls must die every time he reads about his sibylline nemesis.

Europhile snouts report that Corbyn enforcer Seumas Milne met Peter Mandelson to break bread and broker the Dear Leader’s warming to the EU and embrace of a people’s vote. The odd couple friendship dates back decades. Labour’s Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon are cosy conspirators.

Hansard prudes substituted Jarrow lad Stephen Hepburn’s “tosser” (Geordie for the coin a football referee flips) with “anything” in parliament’s official record, confusing his Tyneside noun with male self-love. What next – covering table legs to avoid exciting editors?

Early Johnson endorser Andrew Bridgen’s absence from the PM’s government was revenge of the control freaks. When the loose-lipped Leicestershire vegetable baron asked how he could help Johnson’s campaign, Team Boris urged the right-winger to endorse a rival.

Labour whips were complaining that Corbyn’s office blanked them over nominations for May’s resignation honours list. Her former chief of staff Gavin Barwell mightn’t be the only controversial new baron. 

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 02 August 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Summer special