The insider - Kevin Maguire gets the measure of Alastair's ego

Ruth Kelly keeps the faith, Campbell says the "I"s have it, and the Fab Four get nicked

Brrrng, brrrng. The South West Trains boss Graham Eccles picked up the phone and was surprised to hear John Spellar, Northern Ireland minister and lifelong political shop steward. As a former transport minister, Spellar knows SWT services run from London to Bournemouth rather than Belfast, so he raised another "B": the Blairite bruiser Shaun Brady, sacked as general secretary of the Aslef train drivers' union after last year's infamous barbecue brawl in leafy Hampstead. According to a well-placed SWT executive, Spellar suggested the company might consider re-employing Brady, who was once Downing Street's best hope of taming the union "awkward squad". Brother Spellar has "no recollection" of the conversation and says he is the victim of a smear campaign.

Brady, meanwhile, is said to be retraining as a bar manager, although not with Punch Taverns.

The Secretary of State for Opus Dei, Ruth Kelly, is rattled by questions about her membership of a secretive, reactionary religious group. Life had been going so well: four kids, seat in the cabinet, mentioned as a future prime minister. Then this. One sister, miffed at being leapfrogged, wondered if it was proof that God worked in mysterious ways. Labour left-footers are split, with Peter Kilfoyle his usual suspicious self and Stephen Pound dismissing it as irrelevant. Pound has spoken at an Opus Dei meeting, as have the Speaker Michael Martin and the Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy.

The Bethnal Green beauty parade between the sitting MP, Oona "I was offered £10k to sleep with an MEP" King, and her challenger, "Gorgeous George" Galloway, is warming up. King, niece of the agony aunt Miriam Stoppard, dismisses Galloway as a carpet-bagger (his Glasgow Kelvin constituency is due to disappear under boundary changes), while he is playing the Martin Bell card, vowing, if elected, to serve just one term. His idea is to persuade the large Muslim community that their best hope of a Bangladeshi MP is to back him, or King will stay for years. Galloway considered buying a flat locally in the Stepney block where Stalin stayed in 1905. But anxious as he is to avoid association with dictators, he wisely decided to rent elsewhere.

Twenty-six, 45, 6, 36, 31 and 4. No, not Lottery numbers but a tally of the use of the vertical pronoun by Alastair "I" Campbell in his Times columns at the end of last year. Excluded are numerous references to "my", "me", "mine", "our" and the royal "we". Talking of Campbell, as he does, BBC hacks were unnerved to find insult added to Greg Dyke's injury when the old Downing Street rogue was invited by corporation chiefs for talks on how to cover the election impartially.

They're crying in their goulash at the Gay Hussar after a valuable original photograph of Harold Wilson with the Beatles was lifted from the walls of the Soho eatery. Regular diners suspect corporate suits - no lefty, they say, would want a picture of Harold.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror