The insider - Paul Routledge reveals a gay man's bad joke

A dinosaur rises from the dead, Blair tells another fib, and a gay man's bad joke

How old Labour can you get? The Labour Representation Committee, which fell into desuetude a century ago after forming the party that still bears its name (just), is to be reborn as a pressure group. The moving spirit is Mick Rix, the train drivers' leader. He is drawing together general secretaries on the left, plus the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and anybody else who hates Tony Blair. It got off to a mildly inauspicious start on the Brighton TUC fringe. A steering dinner, attended by second XI union bosses (the big chiefs were at key conference events, that is to say, piss-ups), plus three lawyers and two journalists - Guardian and Independent - was buried so deep in the bowels of the Old Ship Hotel that the ex-firefighters' leader Ken Cameron could not find it. Still, he did get an Aslef watch with the slogan "Proud to be union" on the watch face from Rix, who has unfortunately been given extended leave of absence by his members.

Westminster's sleazebuster Philip Mawer has been asked to investigate the curious case of the Northern Ireland minister John Spellar and the Register of Members' Interests. Paul Birkett, a branch secretary of Amicus in Birmingham, alleges that Spellar, a union official before he became an MP, "has or was in receipt of a material benefit from my union between 1992 and 2003". Birkett claims that the benefit - thought to be a serviced office at the union's HQ in Bromley plus a car - would be "in the region of £50,000". Spellar has declared the benefit, but only did so in April this year (after the Amicus leadership went left), and the register, contrary to Birkett's allegation, lists him as having received it only since 1997.

Blair's Downing Street press conference was enlivened by Jeffrey Archer's tormentor Michael Crick, who asked when the PM had last changed his mind after going out to "listen to the people". Lots of times, said the Great Helmsman. When? Oh, the 75p pension rise. A straight fib. Not only did he not change his mind, but in the cabinet meeting to implement the shoddy increase, he overruled the objections of the Social Security Secretary, Alistair Darling, and then blamed the Chancellor.

So how could Malcolm Rifkind fail to make a shortlist of 46 for Windsor, to be vacated by expenses-hungry Michael Trend? Look no further, says my Tory snout, than the redoubtable Beryl Goldsmith, secretary to Lord (Norman) Tebbit, whose friendship with the local hopeful Diana Coad (a Tory councillor whose views are more in keeping with the beast of Chingford) has been noted.

Old Queen Street's purge of Labour councillors continues, in pursuit of "gender rebalancing". In Bradford, the Labour group leader, his chief whip and an Asian councillor all face deselection.

Michael Cashman, the MEP for the West Midlands and former EastEnders actor, is sniffing around the three Westminster seats in Stoke-on-Trent, claiming a sudden interest in the pottery industry. But a recent cameo appearance may not have helped. Cashman, a high-profile gay man, joked that he was the political equivalent of a bisexual who "didn't know whether he was coming or going". A party member asked him to apologise, but Cashman refused. He can't complain of homophobia, since Stoke elected an openly gay mayor last October.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

Next Article