Paul Routledge reveals an MP's unfond farewell
The story behind Cook's resignation, a timely ban in the pub, and a lady MP's ripe language
The first reliable confirmation of Robin Cook's historic resignation from the government came through the Press Association. Not from the political staff, but from the news agency's highly respected industrial correspondent, Alan Jones. This may not look significant, but consider the following. Cookie split with his sponsoring union, the RMT, when the railwaymen's ultra-left new leader, Bob Crow, issued Scargill-style instructions to "his" MPs on voting for union policy. The then foreign secretary defected to Aslef, the footplatemen's union. Who is the train drivers' media chief? Andrew Murray, formerly of the Morning Star, and a leading figure in the Stop the War coalition. It may be coincidence, but more likely that Cook was talking to the unions and the anti-war movement well ahead of quitting.
The Palace of Westminster Sports and Social Club, which definitely has the emphasis on the second part of its title, is closed for a week while the authorities investigate the case of the hooker and the peer. A lady of the night used casual employment behind the bar to entice Lord Former Police Chief, creating a huge security fuss. I hear she had no pass, and was simply escorted down the backstairs on the nights she worked. Her knowledge of the bar trade was scanty, and one regular remarked: "We knew she must be a prostitute when she left with a copper."
To Harrogate for the new, Blairite Conservative Party spring conference. Not only did Iain Duncan Smith heap lavish praise on the Great Helmsman, he copied his front-of-stage casual style, thankfully without the soaking shirt. But IDS cancelled his late-night drinks party with the lobby, because shadow ministers would have outnumbered the journalists who bothered to turn up.
Michael Ancram, the shadow foreign secretary, declared himself a peace process junkie. "It's quite addictive," he told me. "I've been to Sudan and Kashmir already." To no very great effect, alas. Still, at least the old boy refuses to wear one of those metal Stars and Stripes badges that are taking the place of £-sign emblems on Tory lapels.
A local paper, the Craven Herald, reported that Kevin Lord, landlord of the Byres Inn, Bentham, has banned discussion of Tony Blair and George Bush in his pub. Perhaps he should be given the stewardship of the Strangers' Bar at Westminster.
Humiliation all round at Granada TV studios, where MPs took on the Times for a University Challenge special. Austin Mitchell, Lembit Opik, Helen Clark (nee Brinton) and Bill Cash were comprehensively thrashed by the hacks, led by the arch-Tory egghead Michael Gove, who rarely mentions these days his time as a striker on the picket line at the Aberdeen Press and Journal. At the end of the game, the teams are supposed to say a comradely "Goodbye" to each other. Clark, not exactly noted for tact, yelled "Goodbye - and good riddance!" The closing sequence had to be filmed again, to protect the good name of parliament.
The sports minister, Dick Caborn, has made it through to the quarter-finals of the Annie's Bar charity pool tournament. Just. Kevan Jones (Labour, Durham North) took Caborn to the black in the second match. Some of Jones's miscues looked suspiciously like career shots.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror