Theresa May sparked a rumour frenzy in Westminster last night when she announced a speech outside Downing Street, but those who saw a smiling Philip May at the Athenaeum club on Pall Mall at 6pm were reassured that the Prime Minister was not about to resign.
Nonetheless, the news electrified another campaign. While The Londoner was having dinner with an MP, they received a text message from Boris Johnson asking that they pencil in a date for a meeting. “Definite leadership bid,” they concluded. Johnson is, we hear, seeking tête-à-têtes with a number of colleagues over coming weeks.
Westminster’s tailspin had been triggered mid-afternoon by texts from Downing Street telling journalists to “cancel your dinner”. But if Johnson was jolted into action, his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, was keeping cool. “Glad I didn’t cancel my birthday dinner for that,” she said.
In the end, May’s speech merely emptied petrol on to MPs’ already inflamed tempers. Arriving at a meeting of party leaders in her Commons office, Jeremy Corbyn was incensed to see TIG “spokesman” Chuka Umunna already there, loitering with the others in the corridor. “He scuttled in to her office before the others had a chance,” says a witness, “had a very quick word and scuttled away.”
Speaking of TIG, it is also preparing its battle campaign. Ads have been posted on w4mp for two senior press officers and an organiser, while Umunna is hiring a PA. The full-time role comes “following a restructure of his office”, the ad euphemistically relates. The Londoner is reminded of the time that, as shadow business secretary under Ed Miliband, he was criticised for running a “presidential-style” Commons office, with 11 members of staff, twice as big as a typical shadow cabinet team. Labour MPs teased that it was “the court of King Chuka”.
A Brexit certainty
Arch Leaver Owen Paterson is embroiled in an argument with Labour MP Louise Haigh, who mocked Paterson for saying he was approached “unsolicited” on the Tube by someone urging him to “deliver Brexit”.
Paterson wrote a letter to Haigh on headed paper, huffing: “I note that on Twitter yesterday you nominated my comments about being approached by a member of the public on the London Underground for the ‘Didn’t Happen of the Year’ Awards.” Paterson claimed that the gentleman “even gave me his card” and invited Haigh to come and see the letter.
Website Bellingcat unearths comments from Jeremy Corbyn in a 2011 report: “Looking back, the post-war Labour Government under Attlee conceded to the Zionist forces, allowing the state of Israel to be established, and instantly recognised it.” A Labour spokesperson responds: “Jeremy’s report… calls for a serious debate about ensuring justice for the Palestinian people.”
Richard E Grant is a “complete slut” for Christmas pudding. “I will eat... [one] once a month,” he tells Jay Rayner’s podcast. “I know people who hate them and know that I love them, so I get them... in the January sales. They’re literally throwing them at you like footballs out of the door.”
Bailey family find room for ex factor at David's launch
Baileys all round last night as photographer David Bailey celebrated the launch of his book The David Bailey SUMO at Claridge’s in Mayfair. Alongside his wife Catherine and his three children — Fenton, Sascha and Paloma — the family affair was completed by his ex-wife, model Marie Helvin, who posed with Spanish shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. “Marie Helvin and I are great friends now,” Catherine has said. Dame Joanna Lumley also turned out for the occasion, accompanied by actor Steven Berkoff. Lumley recently hinted at a return for her iconic sitcom Absolutely Fabulous: “We keep thinking it is the end but there is some weird nagging thing, particularly for Patsy and Eddy… maybe something will come up.” The book, a retrospective celebrating Bailey’s most famous portraits, includes subjects as varied as Nelson Mandela, The Beatles and Salvador Dalí, and is published by Taschen.
Nick Boles thanked Theresa May in PMQs yesterday “for allowing me to continue to represent the people of Grantham and Stamford from these Conservative benches”. Boles, below, resigned from his local Conservative Association last Saturday but retained the Tory whip. There is no recent precedent for a Tory MP to remain part of the parliamentary party while leaving the national one. Know of any earlier examples? Get in touch.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy says “Nigel Farage’s sidekick” came over “to abuse and intimidate” her and Tory Phillip Lee during an ad break on Peston last night. “He got a fairly robust response,” Nandy says. “We will not be threatened.”
Blackadder’s Tony Robinson says Jeremy Corbyn’s walkout from a Brexit meeting last night means “for the first time I am seriously considering leaving Labour... [He] will have tea with Hamas but won’t talk to Chuka Umunna to avoid a national disaster. A joke.”
Jenna not amused by cunning Fox
Laurence Fox, the self-proclaimed “meninist” playing Lord Palmerston in the next series of Victoria, left star Jenna Coleman utterly bemused by his approach to acting. “It’s so much fun to be rude,” Fox tells us. “I remember being so rude to Jenna on the first day, and she just didn’t move her face — and I thought, ‘Wow that’s some seriously slow acting you’re doing.’ And then I just realised she was really horrified by what I was doing — treating her with such disrespect.” He has no regrets: “It’s quite nice being rude — and being paid to be rude.”
Quote of the day
‘Stamping her kitten heels... it’s like she’s some sort of Trump wannabe’
Emily Thornberry blasts Theresa May, who she accuses of saying: “It’s my deal or chaos”