Commons Confidential: The taming of the Rottweiler

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Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are, I’m informed, quietly encouraging the Labour campaign of Jess Phillips, which could be a relief for Keir Starmer, who might fear the New Labour imprimatur as he tacks left. Meanwhile, the team behind Rebecca Long-Hyphen’s bid continues to implode. Her key parliamentary aide, Alex “I’m not a Stalinist” Halligan, is taking a job working for Stockport’s new MP Nav Mishra. Emily Thornberry will do well in the hustings but it’s pocket rocket Lisa Nandy who is smiling widest. Number crunchers say second choices could see her crowned the party’s first queen.

Jeremy Corbyn is driving a skeleton staff in Norman Shaw South up the wall with ideas for visits and campaigns. When he finally returns the keys in April to the opposition leader’s suite, a new office awaits in Portcullis House that was involuntarily vacated by well-liked Vernon Coaker, who blames losing his Gedling seat on Jezza’s unpopularity. Labour MPs along the corridor aren’t putting out the bunting. “There goes the neighbourhood,” groaned a disillusioned lefty.

Every MP has an embarrassing past and Luton North’s Sarah Owen admits hers to reduce the sting. The Labour newbie introduces herself as “the woman in the pink jacket standing next to the EdStone” at the 2015 unveiling of the ridiculed 2.5-metre, two-tonne monument to Miliband’s looming defeat. Should Owen require a karaoke song, I suggest Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”.

MPs continue to swap tales of spoilt ballot papers. In Tory Alec Shelbrooke’s seat of Elmet and Rothwell, a voter scrawled “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t commit suicide” on the slip. He didn’t claim it.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s Rottweiler, Gordon, isn’t looking himself. The Lancastrian enforcer had the muscular canine, named after former PM Gordon Brown, castrated to tame its aggression towards other dogs. Unruly MPs punished by the Speaker should thank their lucky stars that suspension without pay is Hoyle’s ultimate sanction in Westminster.

The parliamentary women’s football team is looking to sign fresh talent after Labour’s Anna Turley and Laura Smith were red-carded by the electorate. Playing on the left wing is an advantage but not compulsory.

Hustling MPs are demanding jobs in return for backing Labour wannabe leaders. Leeds’s Alex Sobel, who nominated Emily Thornberry, yearns to be the party’s chair. “I’d love to play for England so we’ll both be disappointed,” giggled a rival.

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 17 January 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Why the left keeps losing

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