The insider - Paul Routledge hails the richest lady Labour MP

Her Majesty mislays the number, schoolkids get a treat, and a union offers a loan

A determined effort is clearly under way to airbrush John Smith from history. Labour's old headquarters were named after Tony Blair's predecessor, but the name was dropped in the move to Millbank and there are no plans to revive it at the new offices in Old Queen Street. It was also noticeable that Smith's widow, Elizabeth, was not invited to Sir David Frost's glitzy celebration of his tenth anniversary as a Sunday television bore. Naturally, Peter Mandelson, the twice-disgraced ex-minister, was there, modelling a loud-checked sports jacket. David Yelland, recently departed editor of the Sun, gushed that Mandy had written him a simply gorgeous letter of condolence. If it was anything like the letter that Mandy wrote to Gordon Brown - ostensibly saying that he would help Brown become leader - Yelland had better read it again. The shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram was also present, bleating that his Tory leadership campaign was "the worst three weeks of my life" and his failure to win "the best thing that ever happened to me".

Robin Cook's alternative whips are in action again. Fiona Mactaggart, the deputy chief alternative whip, has been sounding out MPs' opinions on the various options for a reconstituted Lords. "Maybe she wants to get rid of the millionaire peers," was the sour offering in Strangers' Bar. Fiona is easily the richest lady Labour MP.

To the wilder shores of Bow, east London, for the ceremonial opening of the Morning Star's new offices. Tony Benn cut the tape, metaphorically speaking. He told a rather good joke about the Queen inaugurating subscriber trunk dialling (remember that?) by telephoning the Lord Mayor of Bristol. When the great moment came, Her Majesty trilled: "Oh! One has forgotten the number!" From the hard-hatted engineers present came a gruff Scottish voice advising: "It disnae matter what number she dials, she'll get through."

It used to be said that the worst thing about being jailed for murder would be the well-meaning attentions of the late Lord Longford. Something similar is now being visited on children - by new Labour. Schoolkids whose reading improves beyond a certain level get a personal letter of congratulations signed by the schools minister, "Dave" Miliband. One has already gone to the grandson of a prominent Labour back-bencher. Presumably, if they do really well, the luckless brats will get a personal note from Dave's boss, "Chas" Clarke.

Parmjit Dhanda, MP for Gloucester, does not quite seem to have got the hang of the charity pool tournament being played between members and the media in Annie's Bar, spiritual home of this column. Drawn against Nigel Nelson of the Sunday People, Brother Dhanda asked if Nelson would like to play for money.

Members of the engineering union Amicus are being offered loans of up to £24,999 at interest rates of 8.3 per cent "to get 2003 off to a great start". The letters, dated this month, are signed by "Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary", though that post has been held by Derek Simpson since 1 December. What a pity that departing top officials could not have availed themselves of this borrowing opportunity, instead of taking go-away hampers worth millions from union funds.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

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