William Hague must be off his rocker to sack Gregor Mackay, his top media man, and install Amanda Platell, former editor of the Sunday Mirror and the Express on Sunday. Platell joins another deposed editor at Central Office: Jonathan Holborow, ex-editor of the Mail on Sunday, who reportedly gets £100,000 a year for "overseeing" the Tories' media relations. Mackay, a chain-smoking Scot with a sense of humour, was popular in the Westminster press lobby - which is half the battle when you're selling a dud product like the Tory leader. Oz-born Amanda, not exactly known for her political acumen, once confided to Charlie Whelan that she was a Labour supporter. Certainly when she appeared on Question Time she asked the Labour Party for a briefing, and some weeks ago, after a convivial two-bottle lunch, she offered the editor of this left-leaning journal some marketing advice. He even biked her back copies of the NS so she could get to work. Now he knows why she hasn't been returning his calls.
A minister of some sagacity and international experience tells me that we are now paying for John Major's opt-out from the Social Chapter. Helmut Kohl agreed to let the Tory government evade its social responsibilities if Germany could recognise Croatia without any protest from London. Done deal. Except that it was the tinderbox that set the Balkans ablaze.
Members of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee who went on a spring wayzgoose to Manchester found themselves on an unannounced tour of grim Moss Side. Gerald Kaufman, the committee chairman, re-routed the bus so he could show fellow MPs his rather charming mews house. This could set a precedent. Might the Home Affairs Committee wish to see Chris Mullin's dacha in Sunderland? Or would the Health Committee care to inspect David Hinchliffe's modest home in Wakefield?
A rumour swept Westminster that David Blunkett's guide dog, Lucy, had been banned from the chamber after she was sick over the Education Secretary's shoes. The mistaken report stemmed from a joke made by the employment minister Andrew Smith, whose sense of humour had hitherto lain undiscovered. But there is still room for entertainment. Blunkett's previous dog, Offa, was a farter on a Pujol le Petomane scale. His heroic canine wind reduced party executive meetings to face-pulling hysterics. Another dog, Ben, puked on Blunkett's shoes at a regional press dinner, when the political correspondent of the Yorkshire Evening Post fed him a chop under the table.
"Oh dear," murmured Blunk, "I hope nobody's given him something to eat. He's got a bad stomach, and only eats soft foods at the moment."
MPs are losing one of their least-known but most agreeable perks. Those living within one-and-a-half miles of the Commons get Hansard and other official papers delivered to their home (or to a nominated address: one lady MP has hers delivered to the offices of a whisky concern) at breakfast time. Westminster staff who earn up to £5,000 a year from this extra work will lose a substantial part of their income. The clerks involved are consulting their union.
I didn't go to Oofy- Wegg-Prosser's leaving-do at the Titanic restaurant. Presumably, Dolly Draper and his bouncers would have thrown me out, as they did David Hencke of the Guardian. Oofy's £40,000-a-year job as political adviser to the Sun has been unoffered before he could start, though the pain is lessened by a payoff of nine months' salary. Oofy is saying he only wanted the job for two years anyway, just while Mandy is out of the cabinet.
And to those who say my Mandy book isn't top of the best-sellers' list, I reply that this must be the first time that the subject of a biography has been remaindered before the book.
The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror"