Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Tony Blair has 1,900 best friends"

The last time I visited the Caird Hall in Dundee was for a union strike meeting with hundreds of very angry female Timex workers. My old pal Jimmy Airlie had the unenviable task of persuading them back to work. On my return to the city the other day, admittedly with a friendlier audience, Tony Blair made a pretty good fist of his speech to the Scottish Labour conference.

The PM had to respond to the Tories putting Alan Milburn's lacklustre campaign on the back foot yet again, and although he upset the Scottish media by banging on about the "English" NHS, his rant did the job. Scottish politics has become so parochial, though, that the Dundee Courier's splash was: "Prime Minister snubs Black Watch". Apparently he should have had a word of praise for them.

Blair hates visiting Scotland. Yet not only is he a Scot but his closest political friend, Lord Irvine of Lairg, lives in the Highlands.

At least Irvine used to be his friend. Blair's latest and best biographer, Anthony Seldon, has recorded how the PM has befriended some of the best brains in Britain only to discard them when he no longer thinks they are useful. Apart from Gordon Brown, no one has given Blair more support than the former lord chancellor. When the PM was too busy to work with Brown on a big Euro speech that would set out Labour's policy for the first parliament, Blair got Irvine to keep an eye on things.

Now even he has rebelled over the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Blair must be feeling very lonely. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we know Tony and Cherie sent 1,900 Christmas cards last year. I bet they didn't receive that many.