Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Big Beasts and Large Appetites

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Big Beasts and Large Appetites

Article excerpt

Leaders, like armies, march on their stomachs. David Cameron likes to pop in to the members' dining room for lunch on Wednesdays after Prime Minister's Questions. Whips corral Tory trenchermen on his table to reassure Cameron that he whacked Little Ted out of the ground, particularly when the thin-skinned Premier was well beaten. By all accounts, the meals give sycophancy a bad name. Dave usually orders roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Millions of workers in public services and industry, including transport and construction, are forbidden to drink alcohol during working hours. Not prime ministers (and, in the interests of self-disclosure, politic; journalists). Dave, muttered my snout, also normally enjoys a glass or two of claret. George Osborne, on an occasion when he joined the backslapping throng, studiously stuck to water. It appears the PM and Chancellor play rival roles of smiley Cavalier and puritan Roundhead in semi-private as well as public.

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Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour's feisty leader, had a witty dig at "big beasts, or men as I call them" in her speech to the party's Dundee conference, aimed at Male-minister Scots who think they, not her, will run the Edinburgh anti-devo fight. More pointed was an early draft, in which Lamont declared: "Big beasts, as Douglas Alexander proves, can come in very wee packages." Wee Dougie's sharp elbows are rubbing other Labour people up the wrong way. One, complaining that the Paisley MP's campaigns in 2010 for the general election and David Miliband had failed, noted that, if repeated, the shadow foreign secretary could be visiting a foreign land when he returns to Scotland. …

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