Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Partying on with the Tory faithful and the SNP’s 56

Boris turned up for the ritual love-in that was Tory 1922 committee meeting

Donald Macintyre
Tuesday 12 May 2015 00:04 BST
Boris Johnson arriving at No. 10
Boris Johnson arriving at No. 10 (PA)

To the victors, the spoils. Well most of the victors, anyway. Summoned on Monday, Boris Johnson might have preferred to visit No 10 in other circumstances – as its rightful occupant after the early collapse of a minority Labour government, for example. The new Uxbridge MP nevertheless managed a Churchillian wave, despite clutching his racy green cycling helmet and rucksack.

And emerged with not very much. Still, he pointed out gamely that he already had the “tremendous” job of London’s Mayor. Implying he will require another “tremendous” job when his term runs out next May.

That said, Boris faithfully turned up for the ritual love-in that was the Tory 1922 committee meeting, pronouncing it “orgiastic” as he left. Which sounded right, given the cheers and the table-thumping in Committee Room 14. The backbenchers departed in near-ecstasy, queueing up to shake hands with George Osborne, standing magisterially in the corridor like a host who knows he has given a good party.

Before he went in to receive these ritual obeisances someone asked a super-relaxed David Cameron how he would keep “that lot” in order. “I think today will go quite well,” he prophesied correctly. And how! It could be days before some of them start making his life a misery over Europe.

Sir Nicholas Soames left early, like a spectator whose team is three goals up and wants to beat the rush. “It’s hot in there,” he said. “I’m off for a cocktail.” It was 11.37am.

Cameron was taking a break from a reshuffle notable partly for the number of senior cabinet ministers not shuffling anywhere. An exception being Eric Pickles, who – dropped from the Cabinet – is expected to become anti-corruption tsar, a job most people didn’t know its previous incumbent Matt Hancock even had. And come to think of it, who better than Iain Duncan Smith to go on slashing welfare? After all, he can hardly get more unpopular.

VictorsNo 2 – the SNP’s 56 MPs – arrived for a chaotic 2pm photocall, blinking incredulously at each other in the sunlight, We waited for Alex Salmond, his triumphant return to Westminster made the more ominous by the Dundee-based Sunday Post’s prediction that as the party’s only Privy Councillor he would be joining the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee. Privy to the secrets of the country he is trying to break up! But where was he?

There in three-piece tweed suit and extravagant ponytail was the Dundee financial guru Chris Law, who campaigned in the referendum from a “refurbished” military Green Goddess fire engine. And Mhairi Black, at 20, she of the fruity tweets and at 20 the youngest MP for a couple of centuries, who will have to nip back for her Glasgow University politics finals. And, above all, a pink-suited Nicola Sturgeon, who though not actually an MP, wafted through security, thanks to the magical powers that go with the job of Scotland’s First Minister. Had Salmond een imprisoned by Sturgeonettes in an Aberdeeen safe house lest he detract from his successor’s aura?

No. He slipped in to the crowd just in time for the picture, explaining later that though as First Minister he presciently inaugurated an Aberdeen to London City flight to make the commute easier, he hadn’t fancied getting up at 5am. As he and the other 55 surged forward, spoiling the wide-angle shot, a photographer shouted: “We need you to go back.” Indeed. Exactly the sentiments of all Labour –and some Conservative – MPs. Unfortunately for them, the fearsome 56 show every sign of staying put.

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