Overheard in Westminster: Tory MPs turn on wet colleague

Welsh Government Zen in the face of transparency criticism

There was a fun little spat over in Wales this week after Mark Drakeford’s Government finally published its procurement card spending well behind schedule.

The publication caused something of a headache for Sir Keir Starmer, who only recently ran a campaign in Westminster attacking Whitehall for lavish, wasteful spending with Government credit cards, only to discover the Labour Welsh Government spent £13,000 on just two slap-up meals.

While looking through the publication, Beachcomber thought he’d stumbled upon a real humdinger of a story: two entries in December and August 2021 for “Training & Personal Development” at the “London School of Meditation” – coming in at over £5,000 of taxpayers’ cash spent on the two sessions.

Hilariously wasteful spending, Beachcomber thought – promptly contacting the Welsh Government press office.

Panicked, they soon clarified that their official accounts had included a rather serious typo.

Welsh civil servants in fact had two sessions of training at the London school of mediation – not meditation.

Perhaps Mark Drakeford would have spotted the error if he’d spent £5,000 training his third eye…

Tory MPs’ game of ‘Guess Who?’ in the tea rooms

A scene from the Commons tearoom reached yours truly, demonstrating current relations within the parliamentary Conservative party.

An MP read out the GB News article: “Labour attack ads: Senior Tory calls for cross-party inquiry to tackle ‘politics of hate’.”

The room then took it in turns trying to guess which of their pious colleagues may have called for such a move, resulting in a “total concessive on a shortlist of two”: Caroline Noakes or Tobias Ellwood.

The rationale as explained by one Tory MP present? “Only two who could be so pious and pompous whilst at the same time utterly lacking in self-awareness of how their sucking up to the ‘I’d never vote Tory’ brigade is seen by their colleagues.”

Congratulations to those Tory MPs who plumped for Ellwood – they were correct.

How to buy friends and influence people

Greg Hands had a tough week; explaining his dire local election expectation management, facing a room of smarting Tory MPs at their weekly 1922 committee meetings, and dealing with the election fallout inside CCHQ.

Beachcomber’s CCHQ mole reports of “lots of activity” in the party’s HQ on Thursday, with Iain Duncan Smith, Graham Brady and Isaac Levido all called into meetings.

It’s not all bad for disparaged party staff, however, as Greg Hands had Chelsea Buns delivered for everyone in the office.

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London Tories face a sticky wicket

The race to secure the Tory candidacy for London mayor has begun in earnest, with three candidates already declared and more to come next week.

The latest is Andrew Boff, a London Assembly member who’s tried no fewer than five times to secure the nomination.

Mr Boff’s declaration sparked one Tory source to remember a House of Commons cricket match, in which one MP staffer on the field was repeatedly heard shouting: “Boffy! Boff! Chuck it here, boffy!” Throughout the game.

Eventually he turned round and shouted: “I’m not Andrew Boff, I’m Crispin f***ing Blunt!”

No burnout for Byrne

Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and infamous note writer Liam Byrne is hiring a new part-time researcher for his MP office.

For those aspiring politicos wanting a bit of one-on-one time with the well-known MP, they’re out of luck: the role is fully remote.

It seems that for Liam’s office, there is no desk space left…

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