Word in Westminster: Classic Dom?
Alain Tolhurst brings you the latest Westminster tidbits
Tory MP Sarah Newton was given the honour to second the Humble Address after the Queen’s Speech, and used it to suggest songs MPs could sing together to “increase feelings of trust and common purpose” in the Commons. But after Labour’s David Hanson heckled to propose ‘Help’ by The Beatles, it led to a debate on Twitter about what the theme tune to Brexit might be? The more positive suggestions included Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ or ‘Freedom’ by Wham, while the more pessimistic posited ‘Road To Nowhere’ by Talking Heads, or ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ from R.E.M. The more esoteric put forward ‘Yakety Sax’, the theme tune from The Benny Hill Show, and ‘Last Night I Heard The Screaming’ by Tracey Chapman, but surely the best was Paul Simon’s classic ‘(Article) 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’.
The cult of Dominic Cummings has been in overdrive these past few weeks, with lurid tales of Downing Street’s shabby-chic Rasputin wreaking fear and havoc across Spadland. But a number of them have been painting a different picture, saying they actually enjoy the new regime as they now have clear direction on policy, with one remarking they have been in Number 10 more in the last month than under the entirety of the last administration. Another said they quite like the Friday evening Spad meetings, as it’s also a place to receive praise from Cummings, not just criticism. And rumours of his enforcer image seem to have been exaggerated, one advisor describing a dressing down from the gilet-clad Bismark enthusiast as like being “barked at by a Lincolnshire potato farmer for being on his land”.
The State Opening of Parliament went off with the usual levels of pomp, but for Mark Scott it was an especially memorable one, as it was his first since he was appointed to the office of Bluemantle Pursuivant, one of the many ceremonial minions who add to the pageantry of the day. The 28-year-old, who became interested in heraldry as a teenager, as one does, is the first millennial to wear the tabard of the office, first created in 1414. Not exactly a money-spinner, the official annual salary is £13.95, and when he took over the role his name was legally changed to his office by the Queen. So if Mark gets a new passport under name it will simply say Bluemantle Pursuivant. Good luck getting through immigration at JFK with that one Bluey.
The race for the upcoming vacancy in the Speaker’s chair is hotting up, with this very magazine hosting a special hustings for MPs to grill the potential candidates. But some ulterior motives for going in for the role may have been revealed. Labour’s Steve McCabe asked the panel if they thought John Bercow had “too many privileges”, and whether there was anything they would be happy to give up? Meg Hillier said she wouldn’t have any problem ceding the Speaker’s luxurious apartment on the Parliamentary estate, before Harriet Harman interjected to point out it was closed for restoration work for the next six months anyway. When it was Sir Edward Leigh’s turn further down the line he forlornly quipped: “Well I didn’t know until tonight that the flat wasn’t available…”