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Cam’s clubland clash

Nicholas "Fatty" Soames has the build of a chap who could have been invited often to Cam Dine With Me, yet the Tory heavyweight is one Old Etonian who is persona non toff in Downing Street. The Conservative Party's rough wing sniggers that it's because Fatty makes Cameron feel common, Winston Churchill's grandson being even posher than the stockbroker's son. The prosaic explanation is that he's a wobbling embarrassment. The MP for Bon Vivant Central made a great fuss over the Budget, but not at handouts for millionaires, pension-grabs or VAT on Greggs pasties. Fatty, a one-time director of Wiltons, the top-dollar restaurant, was incandescent that Angostura bitters lost a tax perk. In clubland they're all in this together.

Raised eyebrows at increasingly delphic mumblings by Michael Gove. The Educashon dunce likes to let politicians know that he, a former reporter for the Times, is the brightest star in any room. And now corridor. Gliding past the Labour whip Phil Wilson, Gove was overheard passing the judgement: "Ah, Mr Wilson. A very wise man," before resuming his levitation down the hallway. The modest Sedgefield MP later wondered if Gove was referring to Harold. Snouts whisper that no, it was Phil, who took one for the team when Eric "Rambo" Joyce went on the rampage.

Ed Miliband walked into the Commons for the Budget statement with a plan B speech, I hear. The Labour leader's team reckoned cutting 50p tax would be a kamikaze run by George Osborne, so it didn't believe the leaks, fearing that they were a feint to wrong-foot Mili. The passages never delivered would have accused the coalition of confusion. Cash-for-Cameron is the icing on the cake. Miliband can't believe his luck.

Giving a speech on premises of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Alistair Darling quipped: "It's good to be back in a bank I used to own." Never a truer word spoken in jest. He knew how to pick them when chancellor. Darling's family mortgage was with Northern Rock.

Parliament's intelligence and security committee needs to sharpen up its diary. Protesting members were dragged away on an overseas visit ("I'd have to kill you if I told you where," one MP threatened - which usually means Afghanistan) and so they missed the Budget.

Apparatchiks scrambled to erect tall banners to hide a mural when Ken Livingstone staged a London mayoral rally in arched vaults under Waterloo Station. And whose portrait was on the wall? Inexplicably it was Rupert Murdoch, a mogul who Red Ken the former Sun columnist didn't want gazing down as he denounced his ex-employer.

Hacks now realise that the Downing Street monthly press conferences initiated by Tony Blair have been dropped. July 2011 is thought to have been the last. Yet Cameron remains a model of accountability compared to Osborne. Unemployment was falling when the Chancellor last stuck his head above the parapet. Yep, it was that long ago.

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 02 April 2012 issue of the New Statesman, France is my enemy