Commons Confidential: The unspecial relationship

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Long memory, Joe Biden. My Foreign Office snout whispered that during meetings ahead of the G7 summit, the president’s US team exuded resentment towards Boris Johnson. Biden was vice-president when the Prime Minister dog-whistled that Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage generated anti-British sentiment. The snout murmured it was uncomfortably clear to the Brits that the Americans “hated our guts”, with Johnson’s racist bahruuuuuhhhaaaa while mayor of London a lumbering elephant in the room. Warm smiles in public mask a significantly cooler private relationship, I’m assured.

 

Hacks covering the G7 summit were marooned in Falmouth on Cornwall’s south coast, 25 miles from Carbis Bay on the north coast. One scribbler likened it to covering parliament from Reading, or England games at Wembley from Luton. Journalists permitted to be in the same room as the PM to ask questions at 2pm on Sunday were required to leave Falmouth at 10:30am. The 3.5 hours was longer than Tony Blair’s Concorde journey to New York with a press pack – including yours truly – en route to the 1997 G8 summit.

 

Governing-party MPs usually greet any cabinet ministers who come to their constituencies bearing gifts, so where was Bishop Auckland Tory Dehenna Davison when Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick arrived with £33.2m from a Stronger Towns Fund that is shovelling public cash into mainly blue areas? She wasn’t in any photographs I saw, unlike the Tory MPs in Redcar (Jacob Young), Hartlepool (Jill Mortimer), Darlington (Peter Gibson) and Don Valley (Nick Fletcher). The answer may lie 210 miles away at the private University of Buckingham, where on the same day Davison tweeted a selfie alongside Tory besties at a right-whinge Institute of Economic Affairs shindig. Jenrick wasn’t amused, I’m informed. Davison told Michael Gove that she would “love to get you up to Bishop to show you what we’re working on”. Maybe next time she might be there to welcome the minister.

 

Corbynite MPs are urging Keir Starmer to star in a fly-on-the-wall documentary after Labour’s current leader discussed allowing a TV production company special access to him. Senior party figures have urged Starmer to pull the plug on the project but left-wing MPs spy an opportunity. Jeremy Corbyn sounded paranoid in a 2016 behind-the-scenes Vice documentary. “Starmer would look hopeless and that’ll be the end of him,” growled a hostile comrade. Charming.

 

Times Radio has as few as 1,000 listeners for shows, claimed an industry insider. That’s a low bar for Andrew Neil’s foreign-owned GB News channel.

[See also: GB News: technical failures and cringeworthy content]

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 16 June 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Cold Web

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