The Red Roar Westminster Diary – 20 November 2017

Corbyn's Christmas in Mexico, Tony Blair's £4k suits, Westminster's corridor of communism and going Dutch for dinner with Emily - all in the latest Red Roar Diary.

Comrade Corbyn: Christmas in Mexico for Labour leader.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is planning to spend part of the Christmas recess in Mexico, where the country’s President Enrique Pena Nieta is a distant third in the opinion polls. Intriguingly, veteran left-wing “rabble rouser” Andrew Manuel Lopez Obrador, is favourite to succeed him. Like Corbyn, Obrador nearly won an election. Like Corbyn, he has been compared to Hugo Chavez by his political enemies – after promising to reverse a decision to give private companies limited access to Mexico’s oil market. Obrador and Corbyn would have much to discuss, should the Labour leader find time to meet him.

Ed’s midnight ear-bashing

Late-night votes can lead to altercations and arguments between tired and emotional colleagues, as a recent confrontation between a Labour backbencher and former leader Ed Miliband demonstrated. “What are you still doing here?” the MP asked a nonplussed Miliband after spotting him in the early hours. Ed was then treated to an expletive-laden analysis of his tenure as party leader, before they concluded: “Why don’t you just leave? Seriously, just go. It’s embarrassing”. The dressing down was all the more memorable, say witnesses, because it was delivered while standing on a ladder used by the House of Commons library to retrieve books stored above head height. Not surprisingly, Miliband looked quizzical throughout.

Red Kensington

Senior Tories are still scratching their heads over their failure to win Kensington, the Parliamentary constituency once represented (before the boundaries were changed) by party grandees including Alan Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo. They would have hung on, they insist, if rich Tory residents hand’t decided to cast their votes in seats where they own second homes – in the mistaken belief Kensington couldn’t be lost and the electoral contests in those rural areas were likely to be more closely-fought. That’s a second-home tax worth fighting for.

Bottling it all up

Gavin Williamson, the former Tory chief whip who elevated himself to the Cabinet last month, was famed for keeping a tarantula called Cronus on his desk. Less well known, until now, was his custom of rewarding Tory MPs who shouted at Jeremy Corbyn loudly enough during PMQs to earn a public rebuke from the Speaker. Williamson sent colleagues who got ticked off by John Bercow a bottle of champagne, we can reveal. Now that he’s exited the whips office, it falls to his successor Julian Smith to continue the tradition of handing out bottles of bubbly to Tory barrackers.

Dissident Dan

A growing gaggle of left-wing Labour MPs have offices on the same floor in Norman Shaw South, the Parliamentary office block where Jeremy Corbyn is also based – prompting some party wags to refer to it as ‘the corridor of Communism’. So eyebrows were raised when Dan Carden, who was bag-carrier-in-chief to Unite boss Len McCluskey’s until he became MP for Liverpool Walton in June, passed up an opportunity to be housed alongside them. The gulag awaits for Comrade Carden.

Don’t tell Harriet

Not every Labour member believes All Women Shortlists are the best way to correct the party’s gender imbalance. But the delegate (and Momentum member) who recently voted against the imposition of an AWS at his CLP meeting deserves a special award for chutzpah. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the uncompromising slogan “Fuck the Patriarchy”.

New Labour, New Tailor

Tony Blair’s appreciation for the finer things in life is no secret, but the former PM once went to great lengths to ensure anything that smacked of excessive spending remained well hidden. The former PM was a regular customer at Saville Row tailors Kilgour until recently – where a bespoke suits costs around £4k. In order to conceal his penchant for posh clobber from the public, Blair’s orders were placed under the name ‘John Minister’ – and the few Kilgour staff who knew Mr. Minister’s real identify were sworn to secrecy. Why so buttoned up, Tony?

Emily goes Dutch

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, widely tipped as Labour’s next leader, has embarked on a charm offensive by inviting a series of newly-elected Labour MPs for lunch. Some were taken aback, however, to find that when the bill arrived they were expected to pay half of it. “Dining with Lady Nugee is one thing” remarked one, “paying for the privilege is quite another”.

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