Diane Abbott's alleged affair with Corbyn only makes me more sure she can handle her new political role

Plus: It is regret that we must pay our final respect to Chuka Umunna's political career while news of its demise has failed to reach the corpse

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The Independent Online

And it was going so smoothly. Jeremy Corbyn was just hours away from surviving his first full week unscathed when an ex-wife disrupted the honeymoon period. The Mail on Sunday wheeled out the first Mrs Corbyn, Jane Chapman, to have a go at Diane Abbott – the lover with whom the Don Juan of Islington North shared al fresco ecstasy in the Cotswolds and East Germany.

Professor Chapman underscored the lively start to Diane’s time as shadow International Development spokeswoman by telling how, when she and Jeremy were separated, a “hostile” Diane arrived unbidden at her Crouch End flat and told her to “get out of town”. Were this ancient history, no one would think it had much to do with current events. But since it was as recently as 1979, you cannot dispute its relevance to Jeremy appointing Diane to the top team, despite her previous failures to praise IRA bombs or serve prison time for arson. Yet whatever Diane’s troubles with Labour women (see Jess Phillips MP, who recently invited her to “fuck off”), you must admire the unparalleled spectrum-straddling range of Diane’s friendships with male politicians. Apart from being chums since schooldays with Michael Portillo, she has been famously close to Jonathan Aitken. Although there is no suggestion that she and Aitken were lovers, sex seems a minor incidental detail in the context of any relationship enduring beyond 30 years. For Diane to have remained friends with poll tax architect Portillo and Richard Nixon superfan Aitken while still remaining close to Corbyn hints at a suppleness that will serve her well in areas of international relations – possibly even more demanding than those she enjoyed with Jeremy on that motorbike trip behind the Iron Curtain.

 

Mitchell to defect to Corbyn?

A precious ray of sunshine for Corbyn shines from an unlikely source. “We are rather fond of Jeremy Corbyn in the Mitchell household,” Andrew Mitchell told The Times, in an interview about the plebgate-related injustices he has suffered, “because he got my wife a grant to go to medical school in about 1985. Sharon practises in his constituency. She says he’s an outstandingly effective member of parliament. He’s sharp, he ran a brilliant campaign. Now he’s got to translate that into being leader of the opposition.”

Mmm, well, that does seem the hard bit, though something that would help there is a sensational defection from the Tories. With Mitchell’s eyes belatedly opened to the wickedness of the police, legal system and tabloids, and him still understandably bitter about being hung out to dry by David Cameron, he is ripe for the plucking. Cross the floor, Thrasher, old chap, and start repaying Corbyn for the missus’s career.

Blairites are out, Umunna

It is with regret that we must pay our final respect to Chuka Umunna’s political career while news of its demise has yet to reach the corpse. Judging by a chat with The Daily Telegraph’s Mary Riddell, the “British Obama” is plotting for another – possibly even longer – leadership bid. But it’s pure fantasy. Chuka went directly from being his party’s future to yesterday’s man. He was utterly finished the moment either a) the wholly unforseeable media interest in his girlfriend, or b) the calculation that he couldn’t win this time and should therefore cede the sacrificial lamb role to Liz Kendall, persuaded him to quit. “People have been very generous about what might have happened,” he responds, when asked if he could have stopped the Corbyn surge. “But I don’t necessarily share the view that things might have turned out differently.” It’s the “necessarily” you have to love. Like any Blairite, he’d have been slaughtered. It’s over; no second chances.

Payback from Howarth

Hats off to the The Sunday Telegraph for the front page story headlined “Corbyn’s ‘shame’ over Queen slur”, relating his sudden resignation as Stop The War chairman after some daft anti-queen poem, about which he knew nothing, appeared on the campaign’s website. No one was more scandalised about this than Gerald Howarth, the former Tory defence minister and arms trade cheerleader. “He should be ashamed to be associated” with Stop The War, said Sir Gerald, with the measured authority of one who has carefully avoided shameful associations himself. Two years ago Gerald was outed as a consultant for Quickquid, a payday lender charging more than 1,700 per cent annual interest on some loans, despite his cunning use of the parent company’s name in the register of members’s interest.

The Aldershot MP, best loved for complaining about Gurkhas taking park bench space at the expense of his indigenous Aldershot constituents, is an absurdly underrated thinker. Oh yes, you have to take a story seriously when it has a quote from Gerald Howarth.

Farron hits the airwaves

With only standing room tickets left for a thrilling Liberal Democrat conference, and the touts asking crazy money for them, no surprise to find new leader the Rev Tim Farron dominating the airwaves. Concerns that the best the godly chipmunk could expect from the media is to be patronised were dispelled yesterday morn. “I didn’t mind your speech one bit,” said John Pienaar, introducing his reverence on Radio 5 Live. “It was raaaather good”. Ah well, at least someone was listening.

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