The insider - Kevin Maguire hears the Iron Lady's lament

Rusty lady laments pit closures, Tory MPs bark at Reid, and Cherie fancies a seat

Dumped by Reading East, Jane Griffiths is battling hard to remain a Blair babe. The Labour MP's CV to the West Ham constituency party stressed she was a "natural team worker" - which was not how it seemed to Thames Valley activists. West Ham selected someone else so Griffiths moved on to Bristol East, still emphasising her team-player credentials. Moreover, West Country comrades were puzzled by a reference to West Ham copied in her Bristol CV. If Griffiths operates on the basis that my enemy's enemy is my friend, she is in for more bad news. Her bete noire, the Reading West MP Martin Salter, is to fund his own re-election campaign with a £15,000 libel windfall from the Tory co-chairman Liam Fox, who called him a bully after Salter fell out with Griffiths.

At an elegant Belgravia town house, Tory boys competed in a fawning contest to catch Margaret Thatcher's eye. Then Neil Hamilton slithered across in blue bow tie and pink-and-white striped shirt. The disgraced ex-minister for Harrods remarked that, 20 years on from the great miners' strike, there were no pits left in Wales. "That's so sad," whispered the rusty lady. Behaving as if the colliery closures were nothing to do with her, she held up her glass for a refill.

Division lines are hardening between Tory and Labour election camps occupying adjacent headquarters in London's Victoria Street. Conservative volunteers buy their cappuccinos in Starbucks, while Labour stalwarts patronise Pret A Manger. But when bored, Labour's chief spinner Alastair Campbell and the pollster Philip Gould sit in Starbucks talking loudly about secret strategies. Tables nearby swiftly fill up with suited men and women pretending not to listen. Note to eavesdroppers: don't all hide behind copies of the Daily Mail.

Woof! Woof! John Reid's objection to being called an "attack dog" on BBC2's Newsnight has given Tory MPs a new game. Outbreaks of muffled barking can be heard when the Health Secretary walks down a corridor or into a bar. A pack is plotting to insert canine metaphors into questions. So listen for references to gnashing of NHS teeth, paws for medical thought, giving hospitals a lead and unleashing doctors.

The ex-sports minister Tony Banks tells a story about Roman Abramovich, Russian owner of his beloved Chelsea. Banks, a season ticket holder, was invited to dinner with the billionaire to discuss the future of London's trendiest football club. Abramovich asked if the MP had any worries. Banks replied: "Because of the turbulent political situation in post-Soviet Russia, I fear you could run out of money or be bumped off." Abramovich answered: "I won't run out of money."

Downing Street denials fail to kill rumours that Cherie Blair fancies a Liverpool seat. And in 1983, it is said, she and her husband decided only one of them could be an MP. Perhaps it is all wishful thinking by the PM's opponents, which would explain why speculation is so widespread.

John O'Sullivan has poured his last half in Annie's Bar. He's off to the station newsagents in Horsham, telling us rather a lot about staff pay rates in parliament. An accomplished stand-up comic, he honed his act by serving comedians.

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