The insider - Paul Routledge spots Charles Kennedy's successor

A successor to Charlie Kennedy, politically correct Tories, and Prezza and the loop

Look out on the fringe of the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton for Charlie Kennedy's quietly promoted successor. Nick Clegg, the finely chiselled thirtysomething MEP for the East Midlands, is billed as the next leader when Kennedy finally lays down his glass. Clegg's last interesting job was private secretary to Leon Brittan at the European Commission. Since then, he has spent his time at Strasburg trying to get into Westminster. He is now candidate for the Sheffield Hallam seat vacated by Richard Allan, the disillusioned Lib Dem MP who wants to spend more time with his computers.

The Tories are coming up trumps in the politically correct stakes. The four latest parliamentary candidacies to be awarded have gone to three women and one gay. The women have carried off Basingstoke, Wolverhampton South-West and Chipping Barnet. Sutton and Cheam has gone to Richard Willis, an ex-military trouser who doesn't make a meal of his sexual orientation.

I am indebted to the Ilkley Gazette for the news that Ann Cryer MP, widow of the redoubtable Bob, has found happiness with a new husband, a retired vicar called John Hammersley. The couple married at Westminster a couple of weeks ago, two years later than their original wedding date, after he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Greatest good fortune to them both.

Further to my previous note that the whips are circulating details of the voting records of MPs prior to reselection, I now have their report on Jeremy Corbyn. The Islington North MP voted against the government 83 times up to June this year. He defied the whip on issues as diverse as immigration and asylum, defence, Northern Ireland, transport, anti-terrorism and the Football (Disorder) Bill. Does this make him Labour's most rebellious backbencher? His local party obviously thinks so, having readopted him almost unanimously.

Researching a biography of William Joyce, the last man to be hanged in Britain for treason, Professor Colin Holmes asked for the relevant MI5 file at the Public Record Office. He was told it had been "withdrawn" by the Home Office. After the threats against George Galloway, was somebody mugging up on procedures for treason trials? No, Holmes was told, it was needed for an "open day" at Kew for the families of spooks, to show them what their partners get up to. A likely story. The file has now been returned. In its original form?

Sad, but utterly predictable. The parliamentary intelligence and security committee report about spooks and Iraq notes that Blair's sexed-up dossier went to every important government department. Even the pretend minister Nigel Griffiths saw it. But not Prezza. A dismal paragraph disclosed: "The committee understands that the draft was not sent to the Deputy Prime Minister."

Only an indestructible septuagenarian socialist like Ken Coates could recuperate from a heart attack by writing a tome about workers' control. But the old lefty hero - one of 200 celebrated in my Bumper Book of British Lefties - has done just that. In the new volume, Coates reminds us that Blair, while campaigning for the Labour leadership, said on the David Frost show that abolition of Clause Four was not important. "I don't think that anyone actually wants that to be the priority of the Labour Party at the moment," he declared. A few months later, it had gone.

The unions' awkward squad of new left leaders is getting awkward about being called a squad. Or it could be the other way round. At their secret dinner in Brighton, the Guardian hack Kevin Maguire, invited to make a speech, suggested they should call themselves the TUC. It is testament to the table's bottle that the Aslef leader, Mick Rix, and his comrades laughed.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror

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