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28 November 2013

Commons Confidential: Osborne plays secret Santa

Plus: grumbling in the world of trade unions.

By Kevin Maguire

There’s grumbling in the trade union world over the record of Bruce Carr, QC, who was appointed by David Cameron to chair a government review of labour laws after Unite’s entanglement in Grangemouth and Falkirk. The investigation, in common with the PM’s parallel probe into the Co-op’s crystal Methodist, whiffs of electioneering, with Blue Dave seizing every opportunity to biff Red Ed. Labour’s links to Unite are a particular obsession of the Con leader, so he’ll consider it good fortune that the barrister selected to chair the union inquiry has acted against Unite in the past. Carr represented British Airways in a 2009 dispute and more recently accused the union of orchestrating unlawful strikes when he was in the pay of Balfour Beatty.

There’s nothing boring snoring about the BBC Newsnight editor Ian Katz’s telly-tastic romp to revitalise the high-minded programme. The latest whisper is that Katz mistook a Channel 4 make-up artist (who was accompanying the presenter Cathy Newman on an incursion into Broadcasting House for an interview with the Beeb boss, Tony “Don’t call me Lord at work” Hall) for his new Newsnight deputy, Rachel Jupp. The lady with the powder puff’s opinions on the big issues, including Kirsty Wark’s dancing and Jeremy Paxman’s knuckle tattoos, remain shrouded in mystery. She didn’t go to the proposed meeting.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that Con-Dem austerity is increasing the number of kids whose lives are blighted by poverty. The coalition’s dreadful record doesn’t shame George Osborne, the Chancer of the Exchequer. Scrooge is anxious to play Santa on 11 December by hosting a Christmas party in Downing Street for the sons and daughters of political hacks and assorted hangers-on.

Diane Abbott should send Ed Miliband a Christmas card. I hear that the Labour backbencher, dumped unceremoniously from the shadow cabinet, is poised to return regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s Thursday-night politics fest, This Week.

The aftermath of that Miliband reshuffle leaves the shadow defence secretary, Vernon Coaker, rebutting digs that he claims to be 40, not 60. Labour colleagues mumble that his promotion defied the leader’s cult of youth – many older MPs complain that they’ve been told there is no chance of a leg-up. The Peter Pan-esque Coaker denies an alternative charge that he keeps an ageing portrait in the attic.

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The parliamentary press gallery could teach Putin a thing or two about elections. The chair and secretary were elected unopposed. Again. Young Charles Dickens was taking notes of speeches with a quill pen and ink pot the last time the posts were contested.

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Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror.