Commons Confidential: The House of Borgia

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Wesminster. 

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No love is lost between Boris Johnson and David Cameron, the Prime Minister settling a grudge with an inquiry into his Eton and Buller chum’s lobbying for troubled financier Lex Greensill. Squirming Cameron is paying a price for reminding his successor once too often that he left Oxford with a first and the blond buffoon only with a second. The boot is on the other foot now, and the bonus for the PM is the involvement of his ambitious Downing Street neighbour, Rishi Sunak. This is a win-win for Johnson, exclaimed a gleeful No 10 snout, because both Cameron and Sunak are tarnished no matter what is or isn’t uncovered. The Borgias were a happy family next to the Tories.

[See also: Boris Johnson challenged on lack of sign language at press conferences – in sign language]

Downing Street announcing that Johnson will be “working from Chequers” will trigger guffaws now England has eased lockdown, permitting the PM, his fiancée Carrie and his latest child, Wilf, to legally decamp to the Grade I listed Buckinghamshire countryside retreat. Accusing grafters who have been forced to do their jobs from back bedrooms during the pandemic as enjoying “quite a few days off” wasn’t his smartest smear. The quip backfires the moment Johnson pretends he is running the government from an estate with a tennis court and swimming pool.

Recalling parliament to lionise the Duke of Edinburgh was far from the only public cost of Philip Mountbatten-Windsor’s death. Black-edged paper was ordered for letters and reports dispatched to Buckingham Palace during official mourning. Emails were pinged unaltered.

[See also: The greatest tribute to Prince Philip is not media panegyrics, but the silence of republicans]

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner crowned herself the party’s Minister for Fun during a staff call, announcing her goal is to make politics more pleasurable for the opposition’s miserable grafters. Rayner protested so fiercely that she had never sought a departmental portfolio, whispered my informant, that bemused workers logged off speculating about which post Keir Starmer might have denied her.

Back to the future for Gavin Williamson if the schemer gets his way. The education dunce is telling friends he’d like to be chief whip again. This is viewed as a transparent ruse to survive in the cabinet when his school days are surely numbered. Williamson is helpfully suggesting the current custodian of the Tory black book of indiscretions, hereditary farmer Mark “&” Spencer, be shuffled to Defra. Strawberry grower George Eustice must be thrilled that his job is being touted by a colleague.

[See also: How the Greensill scandal has become more dangerous for the Conservatives]

Lib Dem MPs are talking of clubbing together to fund their own spin doctor, moaning that the party’s media operation is interested only in promoting leader Ed Davey. The anonymous resent the ignored. 

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 April 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Careless people

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