The insider - Paul Routledge exposes a leak from Gordon Brown

The puzzling question of lazy MPs, a leak from Gordon Brown, an offer of Tory membership, and your c

Sometimes it is difficult to know who to believe. A member of the Commons foreign affairs select committee (Source A) told me he had "not used the questions supplied by the whips" during the botched arraignment of Alastair Campbell over the "sexed-up" dossier on Iraq. You mean to say, I inquired, that the whips normally try to exercise covert political influence on select committee deliberations? Source A clammed up. So I checked elsewhere: Source B insisted the whips did no such thing. And so to Source C, who said he didn't know about the whips, but assured me that Commons clerks definitely supply lists of questions for lazy MPs to ask, particularly for the public accounts committee.

Furthermore, it is certainly true that the whips send each local party the voting record of its Labour MP in the run-up to reselection. This is a double-edged sword. For a growing number of constituency Labour parties, a clean record with no endorsements for rebellion is nothing to be proud of.

Much speculation about the government's intentions on representation of Scotland at Westminster. Arrangements to cut the number of MPs from 72 to 59 are well under way, but they may be scuttled. The seats may be needed in October 2005, Tony Blair's latest date for the next general election. They would also come in useful during a Gordon Brown leadership bid.

To the Treasury for the Chancellor's drinks party, carefully arranged to clash with the rival bash thrown by David Blunkett, the former leadership hopeful. Inside the refurbished building is a swanky new courtyard with fountains and ponds. It is so soothing that Ir'n Broon has taken to working out there from time to time, I hear. Perhaps he should find somewhere else to place his ample frame. The ponds have been leaking into the Cabinet War Rooms directly below.

More dirty work afoot in the Transport and General Workers' Union. On this occasion, the prize is the number-two slot vacated by Tony Woodley, who was the deputy but is now general secretary elect. The left's candidate is Graham Stevenson, a national officer; though the two-time loser in the contest for general secretary, Jack Dromey, must start as favourite this time. His supporters say Woodley is officially staying out of the contest, and would not mind Mr Harriet Harman (as Dromey is known) becoming his deputy. Don't believe it. Woodley will vote for Stevenson.

Sir Peter Tapsell, the 73-year-old, globe-trotting Tory veteran who is even more bronzed than Peter Hain, must at some stage become a candidate for Father of the House. He has been a Tory MP since 1959, with one break of service. But he assures me breezily (perhaps that should be "bweezily") that "I want to be regarded as the coming man, not the father".

In the name of its chairman, Ian McCartney, the Labour Party threatened to expel Frank Allaun for unpaid subscriptions, oblivious to his death last November. So far, so bad. But when my colleague Chris McLaughlin of the Sunday Mirror rang Old Queen Street to ask why such shabby treatment for a former party chairman and Labour MP for 38 years, a bright young thing asked: "Frank who?"

The Tories are obviously scraping the barrel. Iain Duncan Smith wrote to me at home, offering instant membership of the Conservative Party with full voting rights for only £15. When I telephoned the local number in the letter and advised them that I was already a member of the Labour Party, a sweet lady said: "Oh no, you can't have dual membership." I raised the matter with IDS at his summer drinks party in the St Stephen's Constitutional Club. He gave one of his justly famed looks of puzzlement, then beamed: "Well, at least it's cheaper than Labour!"

And finally, this column takes a break until TUC week in September. To while away the time, here is my summer quiz question. Which four ministers have been doing the same job since May 1997? A £20 book token to the person with the first correct answer opened before 2 September.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

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