Wonk wars of Downing Street

Steve Hilton is becoming the Bore of Britain, acquiring a wearisome reputation in Downing Street, where staffers work in fear of the Thatcher-
on-a-bike guru encountering a "real" person. The other-worldly Hilton doesn't mix much, so he sounds as if he's discovered the meaning of life when he does. He boasted of speaking to a taxi driver after leaving the Tory bubble in Manchester with the specific intention, I'm told, of chatting with a random voter. The juicier gossip is the wonk wars between Dave Cameron's brainbox Hilton and Nick Clegg's egghead Richard Reeves. The two getting along infamously is, I'm sure, nothing to do with Rich's partner finding that Steve's Good Business consultancy didn't always live up to its title when she worked for the outfit.

The Fox-hunting Labour defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, grew up with his mam and dad, gran and great-granny in a two-bed Glasgow tenement, before his parents moved into a flat on the city's run-down Arden housing scheme when the MP's two brothers arrived. Murphy's father was made redundant from the Grangemouth oil refinery after Maggie Thatcher won the 1979 election, so the family went to South Africa - work at a power station in Cape Town was the only job his pa could get.

Perhaps that explains why he didn't take kindly to a cabbie delivering a monologue about how all politicians are upper class and how what they know about real life could be written on the back of a receipt. The chap was finally silenced when Murphy demanded 20p change from the £8 proffered for the £7.80 fare, telling the driver he wouldn't want a tip from a toff. Ruthless lad, Major Murphy, as the hounded Un-Fantastic Mr Fox discovered.

The membership list of the All-Party Writers Group makes for interesting reading. Chick lit's Louise Mensch and Denis MacShane, former president of the National Union of Journalists, were expected. As were the literary lords Bragg, Dobbs and Healey. Yet some of the others, my mischievous mole muttered, struggle to write even their expenses. Knowsley's George Howarth used to be a parliamentary adviser to William Hill, prompting the source to wonder whether he'd confused books with bookies.

Man of many mysteries, that Lord (Maurice) Glasman. At reunions of the Jewish Free School in north London, which he attended in the 1970s, Ed Miliband's guru is fond of recounting how furious staff failed to unmask the pupils behind JFS Conscience, a scandal sheet that lacerated teachers. My snout reports Lord G doesn't admit or deny being the editor. Hmm. I suspect we've no need of DCI John Barnaby's sleuthing to establish authorship.

The Liberal Democrat group on Nottinghamshire County Council has changed its name to Liberal Democrat and Social Democrat Group. Who are they trying to kid? They'll have to do better than that to distance themselves from Nick Clogg and the Con-Dem coalition.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror.

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 17 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, This is plan B