Tony Blair's trip to Camp David was a muted affair. The travelling media circus was transported in the official Boeing 777, but virtually all of them sat at the back, paying £1,000 each, rather than four times that amount for a reclining business seat. Only Simon Walters of the Mail on Sunday and George Pascoe Watson of the Sun, the official government newspaper, travelled Club.
After the eight-hour flight, the lobby boys and girls were confined to a lounge in Andrews Air Force Base for five hours with a luggage conveyor, a water fountain and lard-enriched blueberry muffins. They were only allowed out for a chaperoned bus trip to Taco Bell for some ersatz Mexican food. Their reward: a brief appearance by Dubbya and Tony, the former stumbling over his words (confusing UN resolutions with US resolutions, though he probably thinks they are the same thing) and the latter looking definitely ill at ease. On the long flight back to Aberdeen, Blair slept in order to gather his strength for another audience, this time with the Queen.
No sooner is my competition to find a job for Peter Mandelson concluded than he finds one for himself - as an egghead publisher. His new international journal, Progressive Politics, brings together Bill Clinton and Tony Giddens, Philip Gould and James Rubin. A cold compress for the temples and a dark room free with every self-important issue.
Bill Clinton was supposed to give a major speech (did he ever give a minor one?) on the last day of the Labour conference in Blackpool. On these occasions, there's a three-line whip to ensure a decent turnout. Otherwise, Blair-drunk delegates shove off home on the Wednesday night. However, security made it impossible to tell them to stay behind, and it was feared that the ex-president would be speaking to a meagre audience padded out with local schoolkids. It now seems that, at most, he will put in a cameo appearance.
The great helmsman is the black sheep of the Labour Party. Official. Tony drinks Masham-brewed Black Sheep bitter in the Dun Cow, Sedgefield, on the rare occasions when he visits his constituency to speak to the voters, rather than the media. He has been known to try Theakston's Best, but he does not exactly do a full Charles Clarke on either of the ales. A local shopkeeper says the leader has given up surgeries, but I suspect that is just Tory gossip.
Speaking of Bat-Ears, I hear that the lash of Charlie's tongue fell on mixed company at another of Carole Stone's soirees, but particularly on Sian Kevill, a former producer of Newsnight. His bravura could prove counter-productive. Kevill is reviewing the Beeb's political programming, which might mean less space for thirsty middle-aged men with a taste for Anglo-Saxon plain-speaking.
A heightened police presence marked 11 September week at Westminster, but nothing disturbs the contractors who take over during the recess. They decorate the lift with football club graffiti, the occasional swastika, messages like "Bollux" (sic) and "MPs are gay", plus numerical calculations, presumably about their bonuses. There is a germ of a television play here, perhaps with Tony Booth as a scally plasterer and Ricky Tomlinson as the crafty carpenter. Come on Ron Rose, get thi pen out!
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror