The insider - Paul Routledge reveals Blairite plans for Clare Short
How Blairites plan to punish Clare, Inverness asks after Leo, and Tessa's seductive ways
All the possible punishments for Clare Short's espionage onslaught on Tony Blair - from expulsion from the Labour Party to withdrawal of her Privy Council status - have been reluctantly abandoned. Except one. Blair loyalists are saying that Short appeared on two TV programmes but did not declare a financial gain in the latest Register of Members' Interests. The former international development secretary stood in for Diane Abbott on Andrew Neil's This Week show, as did Ann Widdecombe, who declared an income of "up to £5,000". Short also featured in a real-life TV programme as a schoolteacher. Peter Kilfoyle was paid "up to £5,000" for another episode of the same show. "Maybe 'Mother Teresa' didn't get paid - or maybe the rules don't apply to her," observed one junior member of the government waspishly.
Meanwhile, those who claim to know about these things insist that Short once locked herself out of her hotel room, somewhat deshabillee. Lunch for the first snout with the full story.
The Big Conversation at Labour's conference in Inverness did not go entirely as planned. Miked up for the TV cameras and anxious to be filmed speaking on the agenda issue of antisocial behaviour, Tony Blair homed in on a table of lady veterans. They were discussing toffee apples, but asked after little Leo. "And how's he doing?" inquired one. "Is he walking?" "As you know," ploughed on the Great Helmsman, "we take antisocial behaviour very seriously . . ." "Och, and what's it like living in Downing Street? Do you have a swimming pool?" The Transport and Scottish Secretary, Alistair Darling, fared no better. "I see you have your beard shaved off," cut in one lady observantly. "But we're pleased you still dye your eyelashes." New Labour's finest admitted defeat and moved on.
An incredibly boring new tabloid has hit the give-away stands. Whitehall and Westminster World aims to "fuse the workings of government with developments at Westminster and will examine the key issues confronting public servants at a time of sweeping modernisation and change". Wow! The brainchild of ePolitix (one of those website things), it is chiefly made up of self-serving first-person articles and soft interviews, with ads from lobbyists, the public sector and the likes of BNFL. One quotation, from the wrongly sacked spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith, stands out: "When I complained about political misbehaviour, I was attacked by Downing Street and warned never to speak about what I had witnessed."
How could I have believed that Stephen Hesford, MP for Wirral West, was alone in being seduced over dinner by the persuasive skills of Tessa Jowell? I learn that, contrary to my item of 9 February, three of the four MPs at the dinner voted with the government on student debt. I abase myself before Hesford for thinking he was uniquely susceptible to the charms of the Jowell in the cabinet crown.
Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror