New Times,
New Thinking.

6 February 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:46am

Commons Confidential: A confab of ginger rodents

David Miliband's breezy silence on the 50p tax rate, and some snoozing overheard in the Palace of Varieties library.

By Kevin Maguire

Craves the limelight, does Claire Perry. The Amazonian Tory isn’t exactly shy, so she didn’t hide her joy when, last October, Cameron granted her wish to join the front bench. Perry, a leading light in George Osborne’s gang, told everybody who would listen and a fair few who didn’t want to. One downside of becoming a junior whip, she informed her local rag, was that she’d be gagged and the country would hear less of her. Many voters will view it as a blessing. By convention, the duty whip sits near the Speaker, enabling him or her to confer with the chair. The problem, as Perry discovered, is that the position is out of camera shot. She’s taken to sliding along the bench to be on television, looking frightfully important. She’s determined to be seen if not heard.

The municipal panjandrum Mike Thornton, who succeeded racy Chris Huhne as the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh, has risen without trace. He’s joined the work and pensions select committee. The Register of Members’ Interests records a £473.75 monthly payment for his work as a borough councillor on top of an MP’s salary of £66,396. The irony of “Two Jobs” Thornton sitting on a body dealing with unemployment and the benefit cuts isn’t lost, I gather, on sniggering political opponents.

David Miliband, a member of Labour’s lost leaders’ club (president: Denis Healey), noticeably declined to endorse his younger brother Ed’s 50p tax plan on income topping £150,000 while on a visit to his abandoned South Shields seat. The silence jarred, as in a previous breath the elder Milibrother had pledged complete loyalty to his party’s sibling leader. Only a cynic would dare suggest he’d calculated that the policy would cost a £300,000-a-year head of an international charity an extra £7,500 in tax if that individual was paid in London not New York and at some point intends to return to Blighty.

To Aviemore and the Cairngorm Brewery, home of the Ginger Rodent. Your correspondent recalls the local MP, Danny Alexander, was tickled that an ale was brewed in his dishonour after Harriet Harman’s un-PC dig. Alexander, I discovered, bought ten cases of the brewery’s Ginger Rodent ale. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t ask for a discount. Either Alexander is a good constituency MP or his lack of financial nous explains why the ConDem coalition is failing to balance the books.

The deep leather armchairs in the Palace of Varieties are soporific. The end of the Commons library, where the likes of the veteran Labourite David Winnick and the Tory Edward Leigh retire to rest their eyes and contemplate significant issues, is overflowing. It is known as the rough sleepers’ end of the library.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

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

Editor’s Note: The original article stated that the Register of Members’ Interests records a £47.75 monthly payment for Mike Thornton’s work as a borough councillor. This was incorrect and has been amended. 

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust