The Insider - Paul Routledge
Selling Gibraltar, a new club for top people, and computer-nerds-are-cheerful shock reports Paul Rou
MPs have given much painful thought to the attention-seeking behaviour of Alastair Campbell over recent weeks. He solicited an interview on Radio 5 Live, appealing for Burnley voters to oppose the BNP. He also offered an extraordinary audience to the Times, in which he said that new Labour's addiction to spin was self-defeating. And he authorised the whitewash of "Dirty" Desmond, the soft-porn merchant so generous to new Labour. Conclusion? Forget being MP for Burnley. Ali wants to be editor of the Daily Express.
Gerald Kaufman has launched a venomous attack on the Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, accusing him of taking a Spanish bribe to buy out Gibraltar's sovereignty. In Parliamentary Brief, the MP for Waspishness (South) asks: "Would he really have agreed to take money for black South Africans, from the Organisation of African Unity, say, in exchange for accepting apartheid? Yet he believes that money is enough to get Gibraltarians to sell out their way of life." Ouch!
This jolly mock-up, of Gerry Adams in the new uniform of the Northern Ireland Police Service (right), is circulating among MPs. But the Shinners' leader is not seen very often at his new office in the Commons. Confirmed sightings since he moved in: two. So where, MPs want to know, does his £100,000 office-costs allowance go?
The Commons authorities have banned English flags from the Strangers' Bar during the World Cup, after complaints from McSourgrapes MPs.
A prospectus for Stones Club drops through the letter box, offering founder membership for a mere £5,000. The "stylish and civilised" club, brainchild of the political hostess Carole Stone, will be a West End rendezvous for people in public life. Stones will even have a TV and radio studio, so that members can broadcast live. Though premises are yet to be found, it further boasts an advisory board including Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, who as plain Brian Griffiths was the head of Margaret Thatcher's policy unit and architect of privatisation, and Matthew Taylor, teenage director of the IPPR. It is difficult to imagine a pair from whom one would less wish to take advice. I shall not be investing.
Uncannily, this column last week identified the first victim of Alastair Campbell's decision to open up the Westminster press lobby: Tessa Jowell. The Culture Secretary was due to address the lobby on her proposed reforms of media ownership bill (known for short as the Thank You Rupert Bill). Her briefing was cancelled at very short notice, and churlish hacks put the non-appearance down to nerves.
Peter Mandelson greeted me so cheerfully by the tights-vending machine at Westminster the other evening that I find it hard to credit that he spends so much time at his computer. But reliable sources insist that an e-mail to Mandy gets an almost immediate reply. Surely he has better things to do.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror