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Rural Oxfordshire proves a hostile environment for Boris and Carrie Johnson

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

EU flags are suddenly fluttering in a picturesque corner of Oxfordshire. The outbreak of a circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background hoisted on poles above ancient homes and manicured gardens is the latest act of rebellion against a reviled interloper: Boris Johnson. My spy in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell – a “desirable” area in estate-agent-speak – where Johnson bought a £3.8m moated manor house, said that the hostility is mostly motivated by Brexit.

The disgraced ex-PM was given an earful by a self-described “mad old woman”, whom he advised should go for a calming drink. And, according to my snout, Carrie Johnson was told in a local shop the couple weren’t welcome. Her husband is reaping what he sowed, with aggrieved folk no longer falling for the messy-haired jester act.

[See also: Suella Braverman is branded a “loose cannon” by unhappy ministers in the Home Office]

Lionised by culture warriors as an anti-woke martyr after losing a school job for repeatedly misgendering a transgender pupil, being dismissed from another for a YouTube video in which he called Muhammad a “false prophet”, and shocking even Piers Morgan by justifying the biblical stoning of sinners, Joshua Sutcliffe now wants to be a candidate for Reform UK.

The right-wing sect’s leader, Richard Tice, was ashen-faced when the Christian fundamentalist shared his ambition. Sutcliffe is too crazy even for the rebadged Faragist Brexit party, and Tice is anxious to make it clear he’s been blocked. That leaves Laurence Fox’s barmier Reclaim Party. They’ll take anybody, as Covid conspiracy theorist MP Andrew Bridgen may attest since his binning by the Tories.

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Over in Labour-land, the betting is that Partygate investigator Sue Gray will receive a six-month cooling-off ruling from Acoba, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, allowing her to start as Keir Starmer’s chief of staff after this autumn’s party conferences. If it’s longer than a six-month delay for Gray, Labour hooligans may well target Eric Pickles, the Conservative peer and former cabinet minister who chairs the business appointments committee.

The first grumbles are being heard in a backlash against Penny “Biceps” Mordaunt as the coronation swordswoman soars in Conservative popularity polls. At least two Tories have criticised the Leader of the House of Commons for splurging more than £1,000 on her outfit during a cost-of-living crisis – although Westminster Abbey wasn’t noticeably full of skimpers during Charles the Unwanted’s crowning. Mordaunt could always challenge them to settle it over an arm-wrestling competition.

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[See also: Will Jeremy Corbyn agree to step aside in Islington North?]

This article appears in the 31 May 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Rise of Greedflation