And here's a novelty: a complaint that Gordon Brown is parachuting loyalists into safe parliamentary seats via all-women shortlists. Jo Coles, an aide to the Brownite minister Yvette Cooper, is seeking nomination in Alice Mahon's Halifax constituency by stressing her "local" roots. True, her grandfather was a dissenting minister in the town. Coles expressed great concern about a local hospital. Her anxiety was unfounded. The hospital closed three years ago. Natascha Engel, who works for the Treasury minister John Healey, has been selected for North-East Derbyshire to succeed Harry Barnes. She dislikes the "sexist patronising nonsense" of the description "Blair's babe", and would hate being called a "Brown's babe". She might do well to remember that while editor of the student newspaper at Edinburgh University, Brown published girlie pin-ups and surrounded himself with a coterie of young women in tight T-shirts known as "Brown's Sugars".
To the Channel 4 News political awards party, where as predicted here Dr David Kelly was the viewers' choice as most influential politician of the year. Professor Alastair Hay paid a moving tribute, which left the audience at a loss whether to applaud or stay silent. Proposals for a minute's silence had been vetoed by the TV company, though that would have been the most appropriate response. Robin Cook beat Tony Blair outta sight as the politician's politician. Ming Campbell was voted opposition politician of 2003. I hear he wakes up every morning in a rage that he didn't go for the Lib Dem leadership when Field Marshall Pantsdown quit.
What will they think of next? A smoking station has been set up on the Commons Upper Committee Corridor. This piece of advanced technology, loaned to the House free of charge for six months, allows "smoke-free interaction between smokers and non-smokers" while eliminating smoke and smell from the surrounding area. Alas, it has room for only two or three people and would be useless in the Strangers' Bar, where the fumeurs gravitate.
From the Islip Unity Group newsletter ("committed to Communist and Left unity"), I learn that shortly after Blair was elected MP for Sedgefield, he told a local rally that Labour must grow out of its old tribal traditions and modernise. The next speaker, Dennis Skinner, "denounced him for his betrayal of the socialist cause and
then, in a moment of pre-arranged theatre,
pointed to Les Huckfield [former MP for Nuneaton], who had just strolled into the back of the hall, and shouted that he
should have been chosen instead of Blair".
According to the writer of the Islip piece, Bill Ronksley, a veteran Aslef lefty, Blair suffered this in silence, but "it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that his life since has been calculated revenge for that moment. 'You have to remember,' says someone who knows him, 'that the great passion in his life is his hatred of the Labour Party.'" An interesting theory.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror