The Insider - Iain Dale

Mandelson's outbreak of honesty, IDS's birth certificate, and an untimely belch

It has to be said that my interviewing style - which you can hear on the new Planet Politics programme on Oneword digital radio - is more Des O'Connor than Jeremy Paxman. But this approach often gets results. I asked Peter Mandelson what he would say to Tony Blair if the PM invited him to replace Stephen Byers at the Transport Department. I expected the usual pat answer. But Mandelson answered perfectly honestly. "I would be very surprised . . . but . . . I think I would say: 'Look, I'm not sure it's a great idea . . . as a politician who has not been given the fairest wind by the press, who's been on the firing line . . . I'm not sure I would want to go back in that position . . . I love being a minister . . . it's what I feel . . . in terms of my vocation I was put on earth to do and to be . . . [but would it be] a good idea for you and for the government?'."

The next guest, who heard all this, was the Mail on Sunday's Simon Walters. He spun it for all it was worth in his paper. And the rest of the sheep in the lobby followed suit. But why is it such a crime for a politician honestly to admit that he wants to be a minister because it's what he thinks he's good at?

The Tories will do anything to suck up to the Scots: not only was Iain Duncan Smith born George Smith, but even the second name on his birth certificate is spelt Ian, not the Scottish-style Iain. Duncan is his third Christian name, rather than part of his surname, and mystery surrounds when Smith became Duncan Smith. Maybe he took my mother's advice. When I was 18, she suggested that I should hyphenate my middle and surname, as it would "help me get on in life". Iain Campbell-Dale. Would I now be Tory leader if I had taken her advice?

Just what is it with Mo Mowlam? She seems to have developed an insatiable desire to shock. I interviewed her the other day and, having arrived 20 minutes late, she marched into the studio to greet the assembled guests and producers with: "Hello, you wankers." We all tittered, as was no doubt expected of us. Then, when asked to provide a few words for the sound-check, she belched into the microphone. How very amusing.

Channel 4 has missed a trick. It should have used the two-week spring parliamentary recess to record a special political Big Brother. Imagine if we had Stephen Byers, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Clare Short, Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, Norman Tebbit, Norman Baker, Robin Cook, Christine Hamilton, Peter Tatchell and Helen Brinton. I know who my money would be on for the first bonk.

I am always fascinated by the voting in the Eurovision Song Contest. Greece and Cyprus invariably give each other the maximum "douze points"; neither give any to or get any from Turkey. This year, however, I noticed an outbreak of neighbourliness. The Scandinavians scratched each other's backs; more surprisingly, the Balkan countries awarded each other ten or 12 points. The Germans give the UK and Israel a stream of "douze points", probably in the belief that history can thus be wiped clean. Nowadays, the votes come from the public by telephone, rather than from juries of the great and the good. Perhaps the people are a force for peace and understanding, but I am afraid that, in the competition's 47 years, the French and the Irish, so far as I know, have never given us 12 points. I can't think why.

Iain Dale is the owner of Politico's Bookstore. Paul Routledge is away