Word in Westminster: Liz ‘one oven’ Truss, Gavin’s dinner and Change UK woes

Posted On: 
17th May 2019

The latest Commons gossip from Emilio Casalicchio

Liz Truss and James Brokenshire have five ovens between them
Credit: 
PA Images

Parliamentary staffers eyeing up a more lucrative move into the private sector were given second thoughts this week as an internal email from the boss of a major advisory firm did the rounds. He told his troops – in the understatement of the year – that the party-til-you drop behaviour in the office had been “getting out of hand”. Among the list of grievances included one worker who left a “poo in the shower” and another who “mess[ed] their underwear and [left] it for the cleaner”. Staff were warned: “Please treat this place properly or we’ll have to withdraw the showers and stop the bar.” Suddenly the Palace of Westminster looks like a safe haven.

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Ambitious former defence secretary Gavin Williamson was meanwhile spotted working his fireplace salesman magic this week with a key Tory big beast. The ex-Cabinet minister dined with erstwhile party donor Lord Ashcroft at the Northall, where a main course can cost up to £45. Hopefully Williamson was not footing the bill on his backbench salary.

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Some 50 MPs meanwhile joined Michael Gove at a Chelsea gastropub on Tuesday where the Environment Secretary laid out his leadership stall. Former Downing Street policy guru George Freeman got a cheer when he said “this feels like a Cabinet we could all be part of” – which is one way to submit a job application. The name of the pub? ‘The Surprise’. Just like the last time Gove launched a leadership bid.

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Liz Truss meanwhile admitted at a WPI Strategy bash at The Mall Galleries on Wednesday that she was “struggling” with numbers compared to Tory leadership rivals who had built up “a huge amount”. She added: “I have to admit to this audience – and maybe somebody can help me here – I’ve only got one... oven.” 

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The Tories aren’t the only party about to plunge into a bitter leadership contest. The Lib Dems too are waiting for Vince Cable to sign off so they can find his replacement. Home Affairs spokesman Ed Davey has bolstered his campaign team by signing up former party press chief Jasper Gerard, the House Mag has learned. The race is likely to be a straight fight between Davey and Jo Swinson. Definitely a scrap to watch.

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Change UK is having a shocker of a European Parliament campaign with their top MEP candidate in Scotland defecting to the Lib Dems and their polling numbers struggling to hit 5%. The group was also mocked for its logo which looks to have been made on OpenOffice. One Change UK MP was overheard telling a friend this week: “What do people expect? It’s just me sitting at a computer!”

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Theresa May might be keeping quiet during the European Parliament elections but she is sending her top brass out on the battlefield. Philip May dropped into CCHQ on Tuesday night for a phone banking session with Tory activists doing their best to hold off the meltdown at the hands of the Brexit Party. No doubt he took a few personal messages back for the boss.