Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: Ministers Keep Jobs for Now, Appalling Tory Table Manners, and Corbyn's Woolly Jumper

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: Ministers Keep Jobs for Now, Appalling Tory Table Manners, and Corbyn's Woolly Jumper

Article excerpt

The speculation about Tony Blair's impending cabinet reshuffle may all turn out to be a waste of time. The word from the usual sources is that the Great Helmsman is thinking of postponing the new crewing arrangements, perhaps until the autumn. Ministers need not clog up Downing Street with their declarations of undying loyalty. All may keep their jobs, but especially the PM's former neighbour, Mrs Witter, aka the Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Over to Shepherds restaurant and Michael Howard's lunch with the Westminster lobby girlies. The Tory leader stupefied his audience with table manners more suited to a greasy spoon in Llanelli than the politicians' top eatery. He fork-attacked his onion flan before shovelling down the rubber chicken. Ladies present insist he didn't use his left hand at all, and ate strawberries with his fingers. Not that you can trust what some call the "lezzy lobby" (a graceless slur, I might add), because most of them were so busy "bagging" the best table places with their handbags that he could have announced the death penalty for voting Labour without anyone noticing.

It was routinely observed that David Hill would not be another dictatorial Alastair Campbell in No 10. Hmmm. The post of director of communications in Blair's office, newly taken by Howell James, was supposed to go to a deputy permanent secretary, in accordance with the Phillis report's recommendations on government presentation. …

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