New Times,
New Thinking.

24 January 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:46am

Commons Confidential: Downwardly mobile Dave

Blue-collar conservatism, a kerfuffle about wearing black tie and the Westminster orgy of backslapping.

By Kevin Maguire

Reports of the death of the Gay Hussar in Soho may have been exaggerated. The whisper is that its Malaysian owners might keep the famed Hungarian restaurant open, withdrawing it from sale. A bid of about half a million has been accepted from an unnamed investor who wished to retain the political tradition of the Labourite bolt-hole. The offer beat the rival £178,000 tabled by the “Goulash Co-operative”, fronted by the MP Tommy “Two Dinners” Watson. The said group includes the Tory renegade peer Michael Ashcroft, the cartoonist Martin Rowson and your correspondent. Goulashistas are already out of pocket by £1.19 each: share certificates drawn by Rowson were sent out with insufficient postage.

I gave a wide berth to the orgy of backslapping that was the Westminster Correspondents’ Dinner but my snouts were out in force. I hear there was a kerfuffle after the organising committee requested that Dave Cameron wear black tie – a PM haunted by his Buller rig initially resisted. I’d like to have witnessed the In-Justice Secretary, Chris “the Jackal” Grayling, barging three guests out of the way to ingratiate himself with Tim Shipman, the Mail scribbler now appointed political editor of the Sunday Times. I remember when it was reporters who crossed rooms to speak to cabinet ministers.

The outsized MP for Elmet and Rothwell, Alec Shelbrooke, has taken to describing himself as a “blue-collar Conservative” to pitch for the working-class Yorkshire vote. Both of Big Alec’s parents were teachers and he is a qualified mechanical engineer who worked as a project administrator at Leeds University. If Shelbrooke is “blue collar”, it can’t be long before the Buller Boys Dave, George and Boris start calling themselves lower middle class.

Harriet Harman’s adviser Ayesha Hazarika was compelled by Labour’s deputy leader, I’m told, to drop her interest in the Coventry North-East seat to avoid a row over jobs. A local councillor, Colleen Fletcher, was picked in December to succeed Bob Ainsworth. Labourites with parliamentary ambitions grumble that Harperson was prepared to endure gibes when her other half, Jack Dromey, was dropped into Birmingham Erdington.

One MP may have breathed a sigh of relief at the passing of Lord McAlpine. The peer demanded compensation from those who spread rumours he was a paedophile following a poorly researched Newsnight report. McAlpine was innocent. The Speaker’s wife, Sally Bercow, the comedian Alan Davies and the Guardian hack George Monbiot were all forced to grovel. The MP concerned had quickly deleted a retweeted reference, I’m told, and so escaped detection.

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

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