The insider - Paul Routledge has a message from John Major

The Middlesbrough mystic, a spat in West Yorkshire, and a message from John Major

Stuart Bell MP (Middlesbrough) has kindly given us the timetable for British entry into the euro and the date of the next general election. The assessment of Gordon Brown's five tests will be completed by 31 January 2003, followed by a referendum on 1 May. Entry to the euro will follow two years later, with notes and coins on 1 January 2006. But the entry date may be moved "in order not to get in the way of a general election likely to be held in May 2005". His predictions are made in a pamphlet that Bell calls "a reference work as well as an analysis". Well, thank you. How can this man's claims to ministerial office have been so frequently overlooked?


To Central Hall, Westminster, for the secular memorial service for Barbara Castle. Most of the cabinet were there, including the Prime Minister, but not Robin Cook or David Blunkett. Gordon Brown told the best anecdote: "Barbara said if I would go to her 90th birthday party, she would not speak about pensions at the party conference. I did go to her party, and she did speak about pensions." Great girl. But where were the Tories this day? An official spokesman said they were not invited to what was as much a parliamentary as a political occasion. This is a lie. Janet Anderson, MP for Rossendale, Barbara's former secretary, who was responsible for the show, told the Tory whips that it was taking place. Answer came there none.


In the Annie's Bar summer pool tournament, the smart money is on Tony Clarke MP (Great Beer Belly - South). The sports minister, Dick Caborn, was knocked out in the early stages, a sure sign of a youth misspent in Young Socialist meetings rather than the pub.

Hot off the starting block in pursuit of Ann Cryer MP was none other than wannabe Shahid Malik, of Labour NEC. Cryer dared to talk about drug gangs and their turf wars in her Keighley (West Yorkshire) constituency, where four young Asian men have been murdered by other Asians in six months. Malik attempts to portray her as a racist. Can this publicity-seeking have anything to do with the situation in nearby Burnley? That town, where Malik's father was mayor last year, also has a large Asian population. And with the retirement of amiable Peter Pike, the seat is going begging at the next election.


It may be a bit early for the obituarists to move in, but John Booth, a freelance journalist, is already at work on a book provisionally entitled The Death of New Labour. Booth was Peter Mandelson's deputy in the Labour Party press office until Mandy fired him; in revenge, he stood against the leader's little helper in the 2001 general election. This is a grudge match worth watching.


Ian Lang was one of the more urbane and witty Tory ministers - he once wrote sketches for Cambridge Footlights and That Was The Week That Was - but that did not save him from the nemesis of 1997. Now he has completed his memoirs, Blue Remembered Years, which has a frankly preposterous cover portrait of the author in a kilt.

John Major, a man wisely given to understatement, says in a tribute: "Ian was steady, shrewd, highly intelligent and blessed with an ordered mind. He was custom-made for the cabinet, and in a less vulgar age, he would have become Prime Minister."

I say, old boy, steady on!

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror