The Insider - Paul Routledge issues a Baroness Jay alert

Baroness Jay alert, the loot of a Hartlepool monkey, and a costly pair of underpants. Paul Routledge

Academics at the London School of Economics are worried. Anthony Giddens, the Spurs-supporting, arch-Blairite director, is soon to quit, and there is trepidation about his successor. The post is in the gift of the Prime Minister (pace the archbishopric of Canterbury) and, to universal dismay, his eye has alighted upon the noble form of Baroness Jay, the former Leader of the Lords.

Who's Who gives no hint of any previous interest in economics, except through the economist Peter Jay, her ex-husband. Still, Prime Minister James Callaghan made Jay, his son-in-law, with no experience of diplomacy, ambassador to Washington. So why shouldn't his successor appoint Sunny Jim's daughter to run the LSE?

Insanity seems to be catching in the Home Office. Having accused the media of lunacy, David Blunkett is telling anyone who will listen (and a few who will not) that he will be Chancellor in a Gordon Brown government. The Home Secretary should know of a rampant bear market in Blunkett shares. I am on the point of abandoning my proposed biography, provisionally entitled Blind Ambition. Publisher interest is nil.

Disgrace plainly has its compensations. Dave Osler, author of a forthcoming book, Labour Party plc: new Labour as a party of business (one or the other half of that title is otiose, as Jack Straw would say), claims that Peter Mandelson's bank balance is improving. In Red Pepper, he mentions the twice-disgraced Mandy's directorship at Clemmow Hornby Inge, the agency that ran Labour's £4m advertising campaign at the last election. Salary undisclosed. Plus a £300,000 profit on selling his controversial flat in Notting Hill. Plus £15,000 a year for his GQ monthly column, which sounds on the low side. Plus "tens of thousands" from speeches to banks and PR firms. To that, I can add two lots of compensation for losing ministerial office, also running into tens of thousands of pounds.

Even so, Mandy must be politically bankrupt, if John Prescott can raise a laugh by saying: "We've got two monkeys in Hartlepool now!" No wonder there are rumours that "I'm a fighter, not a quitter" may be planning to do exactly that.

Some who were not on the official list squeezed in at the last minute to Blair's first "open" press conference. But there were still empty seats at the back. Blair was so bland that attendance is expected to fall rather than rise.

Ian Aitken is not the only entry in the Gay Hussar rogues' gallery who has cut up rough about his caricature by the cartoonist Martin Rowson. My spies in Greek Street say that John Monks, the de-moustached TUC general secretary, had to be placated with a new drawing that emphasised the firmness of his chin.

To College Green, Westminster, for the parliamentary tug-of-war in aid of the Macmillan Cancer Relief Fund. The press gallery lost 2-0 to the broadcasters, because John Humphrys's gang took the event (like everything else, alas) seriously. The Commons team, fronted by Tony Clarke (Great Beerbelly South), easily beat the Lords.

At the gala dinner auction afterwards, a signed, leather-bound copy of Thatcher's speeches raised £550; a pair of underpants signed by the England rugby team commanded £500.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

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