The insider - Paul Routledge sees a poetic side to Denis MacShane

A poetic side to Denis MacShane, Rifkind's lament, and a mysterious Welsh curry plot

To Lancaster House, for a lunch to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UK's membership of the EU. Denis MacShane, the Euroloony minister, is on good form, handing out copies of European Poems on the Underground. With characteristic modesty, he points out that he has translated one of the poems himself, Bertolt Brecht's "Everything Changes". There must be a subliminal message here.

At my table, Michael Heseltine and Sir Malcolm Rifkind swapped notes, chiefly about the length of Sir Edward Heath's speech, which promised to last another 30 years. Rifkind was also much exercised about the lack of by-elections under youthful new Labour. "They don't die like they used to when we were in government!" he wailed. The pretender to IDS's throne is obviously impatient to return to the Commons.

Now I have the full text of David Triesman's letter to Labour members who have served notice to cancel their standing orders, it is even more gushing than hitherto imagined. He tells the growing ranks of the disillusioned: "I joined the Labour Party in 1960 in Enfield, inspired by hearing Michael Foot lecture on Nye Bevan and the values that shone through his words that day. I was almost 17 and eager to change the world. My desire then, as now, was to meet real need rather than pander to greed . . ." There is much more in this vein, though no mention of how he quit Labour, aged 27, and joined the Communist Party for six years before rejoining in the year Jim Callaghan became PM. Triesman offers doubters a low-cost number so they can call the Communications Unit any time from 8am to 6pm. Does anyone bother?

Ann Widdecombe was bustling through Westminster when she chanced upon Douglas Hogg, the wannabe assassin of IDS. "Are you going to the bonding meeting?" she trilled. "Certainly not," snapped the bad hatter.

Bad news for Christopher Leslie, the child minister in John Prescott's office. The boundary commissioners have lopped a rural Tory chunk off a neighbouring constituency and put it into his marginal Shipley. Meanwhile, Gerry Steinberg, MP for Durham City, who toed the Christmas deadline to avert the imposition of an all-women shortlist, finds that his local party has been rewarded - with the imposition of an all-women shortlist.

Sir Peter Stothard, former editor of the Times and author of the forthcoming hagiography Tony's War, boasted that he was never more than yards away from the PM during the 30 days of war in Iraq. Well, true, except for the most important hours, when the Great Helmsman was closeted with George Dubbya in his Butlins-style chalet at Camp David. US secret service agents told Stothard to sling his hook and go somewhere else.

Plaid Cymru is choosing a new president. Helen Mary Jones - "Hairy Melon", as she is winsomely known in the principality - is ruled out; she lost Llanelli in the assembly elections. So the party may be run by a Westminster MP, possibly Adam Price, Blair's tormentor over Mittalgate. The outgoing Ieuan Wyn Jones left after a plot hatched over an Indian takeaway. The plotters deny conspiring, pleading the presence of "a senior BBC executive" at the meeting. Who could that have been?

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror