New Times,
New Thinking.

20 February 2015

Commons Confidential: The darling buddies of May

Big Dave, global Labour and the second most disliked Tory MP.

By Kevin Maguire

Big Dave is hardly electoral Viagra for campaigning MPs. One snitch tells me that many candidates won’t even mention his name. In Cornwall, at half-term, I inspected the Liskeard office of the one-time doctor’s receptionist Sheryll Murray. I didn’t see a single mention of Cameron or, indeed, the Conservatives. Nor is Call Me Dave mentioned in any newsletter posted in the office’s shopfront window. Most intriguing was Murray’s report after a visit by George Osborne. She dutifully chanted the “long-term economic plan” mantra but avoided using the C-words “Cameron” and “Conservative”. Do Tories hope that voters won’t realise they’re . . . Tories?

 

Labour’s international branch boasts 800 members across the globe. It’s backing the call made by the Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to scrap a law disenfranchising expats after 15 years abroad. The branch’s Spain-based chair, David Mathieson, a special adviser to Robin Cook when he was foreign secretary, is more ambitious. Mathieson is lobbying the Labour leadership to follow France and create MPs for the five million British people living overseas. I predict a rush to be the Honourable Member for Caribbean Central.

 

Andrew Percy, I’ve been told, is the second most disliked Tory MP. According to a snout, he became “as popular as a rattlesnake in a raffle” after he revealed on the BBC documentary Inside the Commons the existence of a weekly whips’ email suggesting tame questions for the Prime Minister.

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The most disliked in Tory ranks, however, is the public health minister Jane Ellison. My snout grumbled that many of those who registered hospitality from tobacco companies will now have to vote for plain cigarette packs to avoid election rivals claiming they’re in the pouch of the tobacco industry.

 

The Tory donor shelling out £17,500 for a shoe-shopping trip with Theresa May isn’t short of a bob. Just as well. I read in the register of members’ interests that the Home Secretary’s Russell & Bromley discount card has expired, as has her money-off deal with the frock designer Amanda Wakeley. Tories wonder if the glamorous minister is clearing the decks for a leadership bid.

 

Fatherhood at 50 was a good training programme for John Cryer, the new chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Congratulated on the post, Cryer was overheard muttering: “Yeah, looking after the new baby was good preparation for coping with the kids in the party.” Whoever can he mean?

 

Tessa Jowell, I hear, will take ermine and risk denting her London mayoral ambitions. Even an enlarged Labour primary would baulk at picking a grand, unelected lady dame for the job.

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

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