Monday nights are rarely the booziest in Parliament but yesterday proved to be an exception. For Boris Johnson was up before the 1922 committee in the Attlee Suite — an ‘oddly appropriate setting,’ as one right-winger muttered to Mr S darkly.
Highlights included veteran Telegraph columnist Chris Hope nearly being diverted into the room last night after security thought he was a Conservative backbencher, while actual MP and alleged 'pork pie plotter' Chris Loder was initially blocked. Despite looking ashen-faced with fear, and protesting that 'they won't let me in,' he was eventually escorted through.
Inside the room itself, there was much excited chatter about the return of the Antipodean election extraordinaire Lynton Crosby. Others enjoyed Johnson’s response to longtime ‘awkward squad’ member Philip Davies bemoaning Buy One, Get One Free offers being banned in shops; the PM’s paean to freedom left Sajid Javid’s junior Maria Caulfield squirming in her seat as Johnson ad-libbed public health policy on the hoof.
Afterwards, Tory MPs flooded into the watering holes of Westminster to discuss the day's events. And while Labour backbencher Neil Coyle’s expletive-laiden outburst at Tory counterpart Craig Williams raised some eyebrows in Strangers, Mr S hears an even more intriguing rumour is doing the Westminster rounds.
For Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was overheard earlier in the chamber, loudly complaining about her lack of Labour front bench opportunities. Sir Keir Starmer, according to Duffield, is apparently more receptive to putting ‘Trots’ in his team, rather than those like the honourable member for Canterbury.
Duffield of course has spent much of the past two years at loggerheads with the leadership over her stance on transgender women and single-sex spaces. She missed her party's conference in September for security reasons and has gone public about her lack of support from Starmer's team, tweeting on Sunday that she was considering leaving Labour over 'obsessive harassment.'
Duffield dismissed talk of a swap to the Conservative party last year, after reports appeared in October that the Tory whips were in talks to bring her across. But given the lack of opportunities for Duffield to make her mark at the despatch box, could a shock defection be on the cards?
As one Tory MP put it to Mr S: 'She's got more chance of being on our frontbench than on theirs.'