The Insider - Iain Dale on why Ben Elton is in Tony Blair's bad books

Why Ben Elton is off the No 10 Christmas card list, and Ann Widdecombe may wear leather. Iain Dale r

What a joy it was to see the look of shock on Tony Blair's face at the party at the Palace, when Ben Elton made a joke about the lack of improvement in our transport and health systems in the 50 years of the Queen's reign. I guess Ben Elton won't make the No 10 Christmas card list this year. During the event, the PM looked as if he would rather be anywhere instead of having to endure the collective talents of S Club 7, a geriatric Brian Wilson and the embarrassing Ruby Wax. Cherie, however, was having a great time, and had she not been in the Royal Box, she would have been up dancing the whole evening away with the rest of the crowd. I can't think where she gets the common touch from. Which reminds me, her father Tony Booth is at last publishing his long-delayed memoirs in September. A few more sleepless nights for Tony, methinks.


As the political fallout from last week's reshuffle settles, I wonder how long it will be before our political media classes start to ask the real question: did Stephen Byers jump or was he pushed? So far, the lobby have accepted what he said in full. I have my suspicions that, as is usual with Byers, there is more to this than meets the eye. In the immediate aftermath of his departure, I had this wicked thought that he might pop up the next day and announce that he hadn't really resigned, and we had all wilfully misunderstood his exact words. But no such luck.


I am growing increasingly worried about the Conservative transport spokeswoman Theresa May. She seems to have taken to wearing leather jackets with only a tight white T-shirt for protection underneath, something we are used to seeing on our very own New Statesman columnist Amanda Platell, but not adorning the shapely physique of a shadow cabinet member. Next weekend, I am hosting An Audience with Ann Widdecombe in Bexhill-on-Sea - I know how to have a good time. I wonder if I dare suggest a leather jacket and a tight white T-shirt as part of the second stage of La Widdecombe's makeover.

Whispers reach me that there is a stand-off between the Tony Wright's Public Administration Select Committee and No 10. His committee is currently conducting an inquiry into public appointments and has learnt of a secret review carried out by the Cabinet Office into the operation of the honours system. Wright has written to the cabinet secretary asking for a copy of the review's deliberations and conclusions but as yet has received no reply. I cannot bring myself to believe that No 10 would deliberately not answer a letter from the chairman of a select committee, but if so, he may like to refer the matter to the parliamentary ombudsman, who is there to adjudicate on such matters. And who does the ombudsman report to? Why, the Public Administration Select Committee! Game, set and match to Tony Wright.

Why can we not emulate the American tradition of creating libraries in honour of former presidents - each president going back to Roosevelt has a library built in his honour. Our failure to do the same must be down to money. Rich Americans love to donate big bucks to foundations or libraries; rich Britons don't. But times may be changing. If all political donations are looked upon with suspicion, maybe the money might be better channelled to a Prime Ministerial library or museum. Just a thought.

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