It's just not safe to be a millionaire these days: the predatory clutches of the Labour Party are never far away. A gentleman of substantial means sojourning many thousands of miles distant was surprised the other day to get a phone call from a life peer who is also a prominent supporter of the Prime Minister. Milord did not beat about the bush. The party needed cash, immediately. Could he manage £200,000? OK, how about £150K, or even £100K? How many other rich men have been subjected to this treatment? Labour's £10m overdraft must be very difficult to service.
Speculation that Alastair Campbell is fishing for the safe Labour seat of Burnley is wide of the mark. Ali C supports Burnley football team because he was raised in Keighley, both places almost equidistant from Leeds, though Burnley is "over the top" in Lancashire. When the Great Helmsman finally lowers his sail, Ali can count on a £100,000 pension, a million-pound book deal and any job he wants in the media. Why bother with Saturday-morning complaints sessions from men who don't want to pay child support? And can you see his partner, Fiona Millar, living i' Burnley?
The political hostess Carol Stone is running a series of meet-the-press sessions for Charles Clarke in her elegant Covent Garden pad. His Bat-Eared Grumpiness lives up to expectations, excoriating me for the "crap" I write for the Daily Mirror. I haven't the heart to tell him that an opinion poll for the next day's paper shows that only 6 per cent of voters recognise him when shown a photograph, a recognition factor lower than Patricia Hewitt's and way below Stephen Byers.
How sad that twice-disgraced Peter Mandelson, having contributed a lyrically autobiographical obituary of Veronica Crichton, his Walworth Road predecessor, to the Guardian (lucratively, one trusts), evidently could not make the funeral. The other 200 mourners missed him. The almost equally disgraced spin-doctor Jo Moore staged a highly visible presence, whingeing about the problems of finding a job.
To the annual general meeting of the Marx Memorial Library, where I stumbled innocently into a communist plot to unseat the chairwoman (now when did you last hear that word?), Mary "Bandera" Rosser. Like all too many such enterprises, it failed. The library, a unique facility that has got nearer the people with a million-pound injection of Heritage Lottery Fund money, promises a bumper celebration for the centenary this year of Lenin's first visit to London and the publication of his revolutionary paper Iskra (The Spark).
There will be an exhibition and possibly a plaque on the front of the Clerkenwell Green library. Quite what Lenin would have made of plans to start an elite Top Marx Club for members who contribute £5 a month is open to question.
Tory MPs are counting the time it takes to get a reply from a government minister. The record, Angela Browning claims, is ten months, and the culprit is Margaret Beckett at Defra. But her old department, the DTI, is not far behind. And the Prime Minister never replies. He sends every letter to another Whitehall office. By the way, why do Labour MPs greet Browning by pulling up their trouser legs? Because she once offered to slap their legs if they did not behave in a 5am Commons debate on corporal punishment in schools. I always thought that was a Conservative pastime.