Paul Routledge

Much entertainment at Westminster over DonaId Macintyre's new biography of Peter Mandelson. The big revelation is about how Mandy swept out of a pre-election meeting at Millbank after disagreeing with Tony Blair over an abstruse point of policy that nobody can now remember. I can reveal the full story. After the meeting, Blair called his strategist back to the room. White-faced with fury, he said: "Don't ever dare walk out of a meeting I am chairing again."

But if the disgraced former trade secretary hopes the disclosures will somehow launch a political comeback, he will be disappointed. Instead, he is being blamed for raking over old conflicts (mainly with Gordon Brown and his circle) in the vain hope of winning the replay. Ads in the Independent, where the book is being serialised, insist that it is "unauthorised", but nobody is falling for that. It includes personal correspondence between Blair and Mandy, which happens to make the Prime Minister look a bit of a Jodrell. Now where is that likely to have come from?

The best story removed from the biography before publication concerns an allegation that Mandy made derogatory remarks about Brown's private life to Donald Dewar. I seem to have beside me the opinion tendered by m'learned friend to the publisher on this item. He thinks the story is "arguably defamatory" of Brown, defamatory of Mandelson (but he is "unlikely to bring proceedings") and defamatory of Dewar himself. I leave the rest to your fertile imagination.

We haven't heard very much from Mandelson about the Balkan war, but it mightily excites cabinet-watchers. The Defence Secretary, George Robertson, who ostentatiously stifled a yawn at least three times during Robin Cook's lacklustre Commons performance on Kosovo the other day, is reckoned to be having "a good war". The Foreign Secretary is having a bad one. Ergo, the former Scotch whisky officer of the GMB union is poised to take over from Cook in the July reshuffle. But what if the war isn't over by then, and Britain is embroiled instead in a bloody invasion?

Sickest joke of the war so far (from a Downing Street official): "Say what you like about Tony Blair - at least he bombs the trains on time."

Gerry Steinberg, the new chairman of the Commons Catering Committee, a body far more important than most select committees because it orders the wine, has already crossed swords with the formidable catering manager, Sue Harrison. At their first meeting, he praised her beef, her lamb, her poultry, even her pork. But there had been some susurration about her gravy, which, he ventured, was pretty awful. "And what," she inquired loftily, "is wrong with the jus?" Steinberg, not quite sure whether there was anything anti-Semitic in her remarks, simply fled. I can't imagine his predecessor, the redoubtable Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, Salt of the Earth Tendency) showing such hesitation on the field of combat.

To a well-hidden City club to attend a farewell for Andrew Pierce, political editor at the Express on Sunday and his former editor, Amanda Platell, now William Hague's adviser. Pierce's brilliant speech includes the following: "I know Rosie Boycott [the cannabis-legalising editor-in-chief who sacked them both for upsetting Mandelson] likes to bring some weed into the office. But does it have to be Chris Blackhurst?" Baldilocks Blackhurst, Boycott's deputy, was known as the Great Dome of Westminster when he worked there for the Indie. But he was not, alas, present on this occasion.

Word reaches me of a plague of broken ankles at Congress House. Bill Callaghan, the TUC's economics guru, and Nigel Stanley, the head of propaganda, are both crocked. I cannot believe this is a coincidence. If I see the Trade Secretary, "Steve" (as he wants press releases to call him) Byers, wandering round with a shillelagh behind his back, I shall know that he is trying to coerce the unions into a diluted rights at work law.

The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror"

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