The insider - Paul Routledge reveals a new job for Big Ears
The truth about the Treaty of Granita, a new biog of Blair, and another job for Big Ears
GMTV held a splendid tenth anniversary party in the unlikely surroundings of Madame Tussaud's. The drink flowed so freely that one reveller introduced himself to Ken Livingstone, only to find that it was Ken's wax double. And why is there a figure of Ken Clarke, the ex-chancellor, but not one of Gordon Brown? I suppose Ir'n Broon doesn't have the patience to sit for a dummy replica. But one thing that is definitely not phoney is the Treaty of Granita, the pact made in 1993 between Brown and the man who is now his next-door neighbour. Among other things, this piece of paper, which still exists somewhere, laid down the spheres of responsibility for the two rivals when they came to power. Essentially, Brown would run the country and Tony Blair would run after the rest of the world. Peter Mandelson wrote the document. It went through several drafts before being approved. Perhaps the treaty will see the light of day if Blair is tempted into a final act of disloyalty to prevent the succession of his one-time friend.
Anthony Seldon, who contrives to be head of Brighton College and a prolific political writer, is at work on a biography of Tony Blair, to be published next year on the tenth anniversary of the Great Helmsman's accession to the leadership. It promises to be a more judicious offering than John Rentoul's love portrait. Seldon has done John Major, a book on powers behind prime ministers, and edited a curious volume called The Blair Effect. Equally interesting will be the Gordon Brown biog that Tom Bower is writing. Given his track record (he dished dirt on Richard Branson and the late Robert Maxwell), this is unlikely to be a hagiography.
Just where does he find the time? Andrew Marr, the jobaholic political editor of the BBC, who also writes newspaper columns and does a Paxo stint with Start the Week, pops up as drinks correspondent of racy Esquire magazine. Forgive me if I have not looked down the bar lately, but I have never noticed Big Ears taking the cure at any of Westminster's fashionable spas, so I must assume he will be reporting from BBC Entertainment green rooms. In any event, as Alan Watkins showed in his all-too-brief career as sherbet correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, it's drinkers who are interesting, not drink.
Emerging triumphantly from his Commons announcement on student top-up fees, Charles Clarke was happy to receive plaudits from the Liberal Democrat peeress Ros Scott. Until she said: "Congratulations, minister. The whole country is in your debt."
The impending war with Iraq is shining a light in some interesting corners, not least the influence of Labour Friends of Israel, which, as a circular to MPs boasts, "is today one of the largest interest groups" within the party. Holding office in it is clearly not a career cul-de-sac. The chair, Stephen Twigg, his deputy, Mike Gapes, and three vice-chairs all have functions in government. The group circulates model questions for its tame MPs to ask in the Commons, recommending, for instance, that they mention EU funds "misdirected to terrorist causes" and Saddam Hussein's "responsibility" for the breakdown of the Palestinian peace process. Next time an MP reads out a long, loaded question on Israeli interests to Jack Straw, we will know where it is coming from.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror