Paul Routledge

Neil Hamilton, the disgraced former Tory MP, has agreed to give evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Presumably his wife Christine, who pulls his strings, will be there. The committee, chaired by Lord Neill, has begun a series of hearings on the MPs' code of conduct, lobbying, the Register of Interests and allied matters.

Officials are also considering calling the even-more-disgraced ex-minister Jonathan Aitken, now doing bird for perjury at Belmarsh Prison, which would make a nice day out for him and an illuminating exercise for the rest of us.

Speaking of disgrace, the committee might wish to invite Peter Mandelson, the virtually humbled former trade secretary, before the Prime Minister gives him a power station to run on MilIbank. Most MPs expect him to be brought back in a campaigning role - he's good at sticking flags in maps. The idea that he could motivate the core Labour vote is regarded as laughable.

Alastair Campbell (Letters, 21 June) is very cross with me for even daring to suggest that he is discreetly helping his biographer, Peter Oborne, an old-fashioned Tory columnist on the Express.

But he's not half as brassed off with me as his boss is with him. Tony Blair, I hear on very good authority (not in a bar, Alastair, not in a bar - but if you really must know, the other tip came in the Strangers') is furious that his press secretary is spending too much time in Brussels generally putting the world to rights and hobnobbing with his friend Jamie Shea, the Nato propagandist. Quite right. Blair might not have bombed so spectacularly at his first Prime Minister's Questions after the Euro poll if Alastair had been around. Without him Blair is as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Campbell was, however, discreetly present for the Prime Minister's lacklustre briefing of the lobby in the rose garden of No 10. This gathering broke the cardinal rule of public relations: don't call a press conference if you have nothing to say. Campbell cancelled a lunch with Channel 4 bosses to be on hand. Does this mean we won't see Ali: the movie, the C4 sequel to Mighty Mandy?

As foreshadowed here on 14 June, the intrepid Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, made his visit to Rotherham. And 15 people turned up to hear him talk on constitutional affairs, though it's not clear whether this figure included the local MPs Denis MacShane and John Healey. I hope the £45-a-plate fund-raising dinner for local solicitors, which he was also due to address, went better.

Stephen Pound, the talkative Blairite loyalist for Ealing North, is proudly showing off an injured hand, which he got in unarmed combat with a door at Westminster. It followed a day that started badly and fell away. On his first visit to Ulster as new boy on the Northern Ireland Select Committee, he innocently asked a taxi to take him to Derry. "No such ****ing place!" he was told by the other kind of loyalist.

He had to take the next plane back and couldn't even get a cup of coffee because the machine in his office had broken down. He relieved the tension by means of an altercation with the door. Over at St Thomas's Hospital, the nurse asked sweetly: "How did you injure yourself? And don't tell me you slipped and fell because you'd be the seventh man in here today to say that, and none of you is telling the truth."

A footnote to the sad death of Screaming Lord Sutch, pioneer of all-day pub opening. It was Sutch's less-than-loony habit to place a bet on the number of votes he would get in each election. On one occasion a friendly returning officer noticed that his pile of votes was running short. It was the work of seconds to slip 50 of his rivals' ballot papers into the Sutch pile, and William Hill was none the wiser. But quite a bit poorer.

The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror". Lynton Charles returns in August

This article first appeared in the 28 June 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Buy your home and kill a job