The insider - Paul Routledge makes a Hoon of his summer comp
Mandy spins again, a victory for Blunkett, and how I made a Hoon of my summer comp
The frequently disgraced Peter Mandelson has begun his new role as Blair's backroom spin supremo in characteristically shy manner. He told lobby correspondents that he does not take calls from the press, and certainly not on Sundays. And then proceeded to brief each national paper claiming he had nothing to do with the Downing Street revamp. But he could not resist invoking the ghost of Gerry Adams, hinting primly: "I never went away." Mandy further denied - amid laughter at Westminster - that he chaired the Chequers meeting which planned the post-Alastair Campbell regime. MPs are shaking with rage at Rasputin's rehabilitation, knowing he goes down like a cup of cold sick on the doorstep.
The war between the leadership wannabes Jack Straw and David Blunkett is not over. It is merely being pursued by other means. Janet Anderson, ally of the Foreign Secretary, and former whip and culture minister, was tipped to take over from Chris Mullin as chairman of the home affairs select committee. She has been pipped by Blunkett's nominee, John Denham. Anderson is a former member of the shadow Home Office team, and has an impeccable record of loyalty. And didn't Denham quit office over the Iraq war, a sure warranty of political disfavour? Yes, but as Mullin, a reluctant Foreign Office minister, found, resignation from the front bench is not for ever if that is what the Great Helmsman wishes.
MPs returning to the House for a trial two-week session in September are very cross. Little business is scheduled, and the opposition has two of the eight sitting days. "Effing waste of time" is the most polite comment. The experiment, which has done nothing to advance the leadership claims of the ex-leader of the house Robin Cook, will not be repeated.
Nobody seems to know when the Queen is to make her speech this year. The event slips back and is now talked of as "mid- or late November". The Queen's Speech is debated for a week, so there may not be time before Christmas to discuss the Hutton report. Hot tip for Her Majesty's manifesto: abolition of the remaining 92 hereditary peers.
A slight Hoon with my summer competition, which asked you to identify all four ministers still in the same job since May 1997. I had in mind Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Tommy McAvoy, the deputy chief whip, and Elliot Morley, minister for furry animals. I forgot that Morley had just been elevated in place of Michael Meacher. Readers, however, came up with names hitherto unheard of in this game, played by MPs late at night in Annie's Bar. Lord (Gordon) Borrie nominated Blair and Brown, plus Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton, a Lords whip, and John Prescott. I rule out Prezza because Deputy PM is a courtesy title. Humphry Crum Ewing of Reading nominated Baroness (Patricia) Hollis, but she switched from Social Services to Work and Pensions. Steve Benner of Lancaster and W G Wilde of Glasgow made a bid for Dawn Primarolo, which is admirable but wrong: she moved from Treasury Financial Secretary to Paymaster-General. Richard Briand of Leek offered Colin Boyd, Solicitor General for Scotland, of whom I have never heard. Only Alex Hilton, researcher to Linda Perham MP, thought of McAvoy. Since he got all three correct answers, he gets the £20 book voucher.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror