The war on poverty in Africa is shaping up to be a minor skirmish compared with the raging conflict over who is best friends with the world's greatest living statesman. Nelson Mandela is the latest battleground between the Blairites and Brownites, with each camp claiming him for its own. Blairites claim Tony has known him longest and, what's more, Cherie also gets on well with him. Brownites counter that Gordon is very close to Mandela, the great man ringing the Chancellor for 15 minutes to offer congratulations the day baby John was born. Brown has taken to handing visitors a book of Mandela's speeches. He penned a note in a copy for Midge Ure, commiserating with him that so few remember how the former Ultravox singer founded Live Aid 20 years ago with Sir Bob Geldof.
The quiet man of politics, Iain Duncan Smith, is seeking his own mini-summit with Saint Bob before embarking on a tour of Africa. As chairman of the Centre for Social Justice, which he founded last year, the short-lived leader of the Tories wants Saint Bob to help him understand why in Britain we supposedly suffer from spiritual poverty while in Africa they don't, even though they are poor. Sheila Gunn, John Major's old press secretary, rang on IDS's behalf only to learn that Saint Bob's diary is full - and IDS is now the invisible man.
Pasty-looking Geoff Hoon's relief at escaping a challenge from Robert Kilroy-Silk's tan may prove short-lived. The Veritas leader performed the fastest chicken run in history by abandoning his proposed challenge to Hoon's 13,000 majority in Ashfield, to take on the anonymous Elizabeth Blackman in Erewash. She sits atop a more vulnerable majority of 7,000. But a group of textile workers may yet challenge Hoon. The hapless Defence Secretary mistakenly shut their factory after his office mixed up the names of two local companies.
The decision of Blair's speechwriter Peter Hyman to give up a Downing Street pass to rediscover verbs as a teaching assistant at an Islington comprehensive has sparked heated discussions about the best way to burnish a CV for a safe seat. Stitching up a union nomination remains an easier option. Still, Hyman should be good at spotting cheats during exams. His habit of reading whatever was on other people's desks earned him the nickname "Spyman" in Downing Street.
Michael Howard had plans for a pint in the Rovers Return with the Coronation Street cast, but they will be as flat as a half of Newton & Ridley's mild after Blair beat him to the set. On a reconnaissance trip to Manchester, the Tory PR supremo Guy Black failed to recognise the Labour spinner Matthew Doyle. But Doyle recognised him and advised a swift visit to trump the Tories. TV executives who watched unedited footage of Blair's trip report he got along best with the actor Johnny Briggs: he plays Mike Baldwin, who runs a sweatshop making knickers.
Scottish National Party leaders are brassed off after failing to book Dundee's imposing Caird Hall - the Kremlin in Letter to Brezhnev - to launch their general election campaign next month. Organisers of the Scottish Brass Band Championships paid their deposit first, so Alex Salmond will have to mingle with wedding parties in a nearby hotel.
The curious alliance between the leftish, pro-war Observer and right-wing, anti-war Mail on Sunday is strengthened
by another Guantanamo joint "exclusive",
this time the tale of the freed detainee Martin Mubanga. One paper provided the respectability, the other £20,000.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror