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21 September 2017

Commons Confidential: The moderates won’t be happy with Corbyn’s new recruit

Andrew Murray is sharp, strategic and steely.

By Kevin Maguire

The wobbly Theresa May faces a revolt by her party’s Chris Mullin types, should she seek to inject fresh blood into the Conservatives to banish the Boris blues. The tamed Labour mischief-maker Mullin was humiliated after Tony Blair charmed him into abandoning the lofty chair of the home affairs select committee for a piddling post in the Department of Folding Deckchairs. May, a Tory snout whispered, would struggle to prise the likes of the former army officer Tom Tugendhat from a backbench foreign affairs perch rated several rungs above a junior job issuing paperclips. Nor is the money worth the aggravation for the next generation. When a committee chair pays £15,000 on top of an MP’s £76,000 salary, the snout added, an extra £7,000 isn’t worth the workload or abuse.

I hear that Unite’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray, is to split his time between Jeremy Corbyn’s office and Len McCluskey’s trade union after the Labour party conference. The veteran Communist Party member joined Labour last year and was praised by Southside staffers for reinforcing the party’s election drive. Murray is sharp, strategic and steely. The militant moderates won’t be happy.

Corbyn and John McDonnell are mulling over what to do about the South Shields constituency Labour Party after hearing lurid tales of the bullying of Emma Lewell-Buck, the shadow minister for children. This dirty scrap is about power, not politics, with a faction determined to oust my home town’s first woman MP. A revival AGM following the lifting of a 16-month CLP suspension included – an eyewitness recounted – a prominent local opponent yelling, “Fat Scottish c***!” at the Labour North director, Fiona Stanton, before ripping up membership forms. Hardly the straight-talking, honest politics promised by Corbyn.

The revelation by Tessa Jowell’s family that the former Olympics minister has brain cancer and Nick Clegg’s public statement on his son’s winning battle with Hodgkin lymphoma put on record two personal struggles that the media responsibly didn’t expose. The word in Westminster is that a former Labour minister responds to inquiries about a child attending a very posh school near Slough with threats of legal action. Perhaps it’s best not to go there.

For some inexplicable reason, I’ve been put on the mailing list of Vicky Ford, the Tory MP for Chelmsford. I trust that she enjoyed her tour of an Anglian Water sewage treatment plant. Ford’s diary – she is evidently flushed with success – makes Charles Pooter look like a shrinking violet.

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Inspired by the BBC’s two-wheelin’ Jeremy Vine, the Labour heavyweight Tom Watson has taken up cycling. That’s a lot of Lycra.