The insider - Paul Routledge blows his own trumpet

How Brown was "outed", where you first read about Milburn, and Ingham looks back

Sad though it is to see the final departure of Nick Brown from the government, at least the full story of his "outing" by the News of the World may now be told. An anxious Phil Hall, then editor of the NoW, rang No 10 to tell Tony Blair's spinners that he intended to "out" Nick Brown as gay, an open secret at Westminster and of diminishing interest even to his readers. Insiders at the paper say that Hall half-expected to be asked not to run the story, a request with which he would have complied. On the contrary, Alastair Campbell, never one to pass up an opportunity to hit a Brownite (Nick being an ally of his namesake at No 11), said words to the effect of: "Go ahead. Make my day."

And so to trumpets, the blowing of. This column predicted on 14 April that Alan Milburn would return to the back benches. It also disclosed that Blair was heartily sick and tired of Derry Irvine's grandstanding, and would like to get rid of him. The prediction that David Miliband would zoom into the cabinet, possibly as Home Secretary, proved premature. But give it time. Another prediction: when Milburn gets tired of being a househusband, he will stand for the leadership against Gordon Brown. In the meantime, he will spend more time with his family - the Parliamentary Labour Party, the party at large and the trade unions.

To Portcullis House, for the launch of an appeal for funds for Ian Walters's statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, soon (one hopes) to grace Westminster's College Green. Copies of the maquette (below), showing the great socialist and suffragette in full cry, are on sale for £10,000 apiece. So far, only Manchester Grammar School, remembering Pankhurst's childhood roots, has come up with the money. Where are the rich supporters of new Labour? The Folletts have expressed an interest, but didn't show. Of the female MPs, only Linda Perham (Lab, Ilford North) spoke. Most of the male MPs were naturally engaged elsewhere, principally at a Westminster pub showing England v Slovakia on the big screen, aided and abetted by a free bar provided by Camelot, the Lottery people. Yet Sylvia's statue, once in place, could influence events: she will be looking over the shoulder of politicians who give interviews on the Green, which is a favourite spot for television news programmes.

Nick Raynsford, the insufferably smug local government minister, cannot explain why it is possible to marry, buy a house and become an MP at the age of 18, but not possible to become a local councillor until the age of 21. This anomaly is not addressed in the Local Government Bill now going through parliament, but Raynsford (whose brief, ludicrous bid to become Labour's candidate for London mayor is not forgotten) does not get away so easily. The feisty Lib Dem peeress Ros Scott has put down an amendment and has backing from the Local Government Association and the parish councils.

The verdict of Bill Keegan, economics editor of the Observer, on Ir'n Broon's chancellorship is eagerly awaited. His book The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown comes out in September, and a measure of its contents may be gained from a contrast with his previous volume, entitled Mr Lawson's Gamble. "Very strategic," Keegan concludes economically, then rushing into garrulity adds, "It's a curate's egg." So it should be: the subject is a son of the manse.

Sir Bernard Ingham has contributed a nostalgic piece to the Yorkshire Journal, redolent of chapel, clogs, deep winter snows and dock puddings. He says his "only ambition in life" was to be a farmer, but multiple asthma allergies set him on the road to Downing Street. Of Yorkshire, he says: "Some say I have never looked back. It isn't true." Of course not, but he never went back, preferring Purley in Surrey.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

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