Tony Blair is furious that details of his "blind" trust have become known, particularly his wife's dodgy use of the trust as an investment vehicle, as revealed in Cheriegate. I'm not surprised. When a newspaper exposed the genuinely blind trusts into which Geoffrey Robinson MP and others paid to maintain the staffs of Blair and Gordon Brown, the Great Helmsman was beside himself with rage. At the insistence of the PM and Alastair Campbell, Blair's name was removed from a Treasury press release on the issue. Brown was happy to admit that he accepted the cash. Mr High Moral Ground wanted the affair kept secret.
Labour backbenchers fear (rightly) that Cheriegate is damaging to the party. But to a man, they defend her right to buy two flats. That's because the taxpayer gives them a £19,000-a-year tax-free London living allowance to do the same. Some of them are sitting on a paper profit in excess of £100,000, made since 1997.
Labour chairman John Reid has been touring the Commons tearooms urging MPs to perk up and support the government. He is very bothered about the unions. I wonder why.
Draped like a Salvador DalI watch over the Lib Dem benches behind Charlie Kennedy during the pre-Budget report to the Commons, the twice disgraced ex-minister Peter Mandelson must have been pondering his fate as rumours fly that he will go to Brussels as successor to Neil Kinnock. He certainly has the self-importance for the job of European Commissioner. When BBC TV's Question Time asked him to appear, he agreed on condition that the programme was filmed in his Hartlepool constituency.
The career of Ben Bradshaw, £91,358- a-year minister in Robin Cook's office, is progressing well. But not quite at the speed imagined by his Anglican brothers and sisters. In the list of patrons (and matrons) of GRAS - the Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod - he appeared as the Right Hon Ben. The "honour" was crossed out. I should say so. More right on than Right Hon.
Bumping into Paddy Ashdown the other day, I asked the Lord High Plenipotentiary of Former Yugoslavia if he had subdued the drug-running, people-smuggling Kosovars. "Not yet, but I'm coming to it!" he chortled.
Alastair Campbell has completed his purge of high-ranking press officers in Whitehall. Most civil service big names went in year zero of new Labour, but Brian Butler hung on at the Home Office. He has now been shunted off to head the Civil Contingency Communications Strategy, which should leave him plenty of spare time, since the government has no strategy for the media handling of terrorist incidents.
Christmas Quiz time! Complete these ten names, and the first correct entry opened wins a £20 book token:
James Gordon ------
Harold Adrian Russell ------
Victor Grayson Hardie ------
Norman Beresford ------
Lev Davidovich ------
Ian Richard Kyle ------
Denis Winston ------
Mohandas Karamchand ------
Charles Alexander James ------
Hugh Todd Naylor ------
Answers to Paul Arthur Longstaffe ---. And a Merry Christmas all round!
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror