Commons Confidential: Tin opener Tories and queasy Nats

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Tory Poujadists granting Boris Johnson 12 months’ probation – 1922 Committee grey suits tweaked party rules so the year’s gap between fratricidal no- confidence votes starts from his installation, instead of the December 2018 attempt to topple Theresa May – is another reason the clown king might be tempted to ask for an early general election. My Westminster sobbing snout, who quietly voted for Jeremy Hunt, predicted that Johnson under pressure would combine the common touch of David Cameron and the empathy of Theresa May. Tick-tock.

The PM’s dead, long live the PM. Sir Humphrey from another Whitehall era, Robin Butler, recalled that “garden girls” in Downing Street’s typing pool were horrified when in 1974 he, as No 10 private secretary, transferred his loyalty from Edward Heath to Harold Wilson. The admin staff, Baron Butler remembered in a Salisbury memorial lecture honouring Grocer Ted, thought that senior mandarins should arrive and leave with political masters. Jumping from austere May to flamboyant buffoon Johnson promises to be as big a jolt as a change in political hue

As she banged on doors in the Norman Shaw North building begging to borrow a tin opener, Trudy Harrison’s desperation ahead of Boris Johnson’s coronation raised eyebrows. My intrigued informant wondered if the Copeland Tory is hoarding tins and building a den under the table before her Brextremist PM goes nuclear, pressing the no-deal devastation button. Stockpile and survive.

Chris “Failing” Grayling’s wheels finally coming off saw transport department civil servants scrambling to list all the potholes he’d dug for his luckless replacement. Briefings received by other new ministers are in traditional red boxes. Transport mandarins called theirs “battle boxes” for Failing’s successor.

Queasy Scots Nats were accused of trying to conceal the fact that the party’s London summer bash was in the National Liberal Club. Invitations directed guests to an entrance around the corner with partygoers led into the actual venue via a butler’s door. My tipsy source speculated that after the SNP’s generous hospitality a fair few revellers stumbled into the night none the wiser.

Haughty Daniel Kawczynski picked a fight with the wrong folk by demanding to know why parliament’s security guards take two-hour breaks during shifts. The Public and Commercial Services union is retaliating by asking to know more about the 6ft 8in dishonourable member for Riyadh’s closeness to the Saudi regime. There’ll be only one winner and my money’s on the little people against the beanpole Tory. 

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 24 July 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Shame of the nation

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