The Londoner: Jeremy Corbyn ponders leadership exit

Senior members of the shadow cabinet have told The Londoner that they understand Jeremy Corbyn would like to step down as leader of the Labour Party.

The sources say that a number of those around the leader are also of the view that Corbyn, who is 70 in May, would like to pass on the reins of his surprisingly successful socialist project.

One member of the shadow cabinet told us: “He’s tired and fed up.” Another: “Corbyn is ready to step down. He wants to step down.”

The talk comes as Corbyn has come under increasing political pressure over his handling of the anti-Semitism crisis and Brexit.

Although a fit cyclist and teetotal vegetarian, Corbyn is known to survive long days with naps and takes days in lieu if he works on a Sunday. In 2017, he stressed the importance of work-life balance and said he would not give up his allotment if he became PM. “There’s a need for everyone in life to balance what they do, however stressful or important their job is”.

This is not the first time there has been speculation about Corbyn’s future: whispers followed the EU referendum and Labour leadership election in 2016. In early 2017, with Labour rock bottom in the polls, Len McCluskey, one of Corbyn’s strongest supporters, said Corbyn and John McDonnell were “not egomaniacs” and “not desperate to cling on to power for power’s sake”.

This morning official Labour sources denied Corbyn was pondering an exit.

“Somebody has been eating too much cheese, or something harder,” one said, adding, “His diary is packed full. He does a lot more late nights than early mornings: meetings, engagements, receptions. He’ll be at the Kebab Awards tonight.”

They said Corbyn was “fit and healthy”: “The person that walks up the stairs instead of taking the lift.”

If Corbyn stays on and Labour wins the 2022 election, he would be the oldest prime minister at first appointment ever. However, another source adds: “Jeremy is the first to admit that he’s not going to be around for ever.”

*Although it has been reported that Corbyn takes lieu days, a spokesman from the leader’s office contacted the Londoner this afternoon to say the claim was "utter nonsense".

The Reform Club hoists Le Tricolore

The Reform Club has given the finger to the Brexit elite by electing its first female French chair in the year Britain is set to leave the EU. Nathalie Romang, elected by the club’s committee, is the third female chair since women were admitted as members in 1981.

At 45, she is younger than the typical chair, who, a source says, is more likely to be “in their fifties or sixties”.

Happily, too, the source adds, Romang has already applied and received her leave to remain “so we’re not going to lose her in a week”.

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In November, Jo Johnson resigned from the Government with great fanfare, blasting the “potential chaos that will follow a no-deal Brexit. It will cause disruption, delay and deep damage to our economy.” Yet last week he failed to vote for Yvette Cooper’s anti-no-deal motion, the Government’s no-deal motion, or even the cross-party amendment that would have handed Parliament control over Brexit. His allies were “not happy”.

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Philip Hammond, set to lose his press secretary, Will Garton, is to replace him with Olaf Henricson-Bell, head of communications at the British Embassy in Paris. Henricson-Bell’s twin brother, Torsten Bell, used to be an aide to Ed Miliband.

Golborne club feels the love

Actor Patricia Arquette and fashion designer Rosetta Getty hosted a charity dinner at Laylow in Golborne Road, Westbourne Park on Friday in aid of their charity, GiveLove.

Arquette — who won an Oscar for Boyhood in 2015, and stars as a mother trapped in a toxic, co-dependent relationship with her young daughter in upcoming true-crime series The Act — recently said she has little time for people asking how she makes her characters “likeable”.

“I really am happy to throw that question, concern, whatever it is, into a dumpster fire and just be free,” she said.

GiveLove was founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to provide emergency sanitation to displaced families and it now works to improve sanitation in more than six countries.

Also at the dinner was actor Tom Hollander, star of the BBC’s Baptiste, a Golborne local and a shareholder in Laylow. The club is known for its A-list funding, with Luther star Idris Elba, another prominent backer.

Investors were required to put in between £10,000 and £400,000 each.

SW1A

Jo Swinson (LightRocket via Getty Images)

Jo Swinson, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, is getting cosy with The Independent Group MPs. On Saturday night Swinson hosted Anna Soubry in York at the Lib-Dem spring conference. Tomorrow at six o’clock she will have a “cup of tea” with Heidi Allen – and broadcast their chat live on Facebook.​

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The latest Register of Financial Interests shows that Ben Bradley MP received £5,000 from George Farmer, the chairman of Turning Point UK — a Right-wing youth group. However, Bradley tells us the money was “not from Turning Point” but “from George Farmer as an individual” whom he knows personally. Apparently, Farmer wanted to support Bradley’s work in his Nottinghamshire constituency.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg confesses: “I still cannot resist Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.” How does the famously old-school Tory backbencher like to eat them? With a knife and fork?

Jacqui does a Jess

Jacqui Smith, who was Labour home secretary between 2007 and 2009 but also, briefly, the chief whip, recalls an expletive-heavy run-in she once had with Diane Abbott, the current shadow home secretary. Abbott, she says, “wrote a piece in which she said I was like a schoolmarm”, which Smith considered “both sexist [and] patronising” and led to “the biggest row” ever.

“I had her in,” Smith tells her podcast For The Many. “She said, ‘You know I didn’t mean any offence by that.’” But Smith says she still lost it and “actually” used “the f word, even before Jess Phillips”.

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Kelly Simpkin, Nicky Clarke with their son Nico Clarke (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Does Nicky Clarke blowdry his heir’s hair? Yesterday the hairdresser and his partner, Kelly Simpkin took their well-coiffed young son Nico to a screening of Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun.

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MP Louise Haigh​ comes clean as reports circulate that Brit imports of halloumi make up six per cent of Cyprus’ trade.