Paul Routledge

Let's be a bit serious just for a moment. The royal baby is welcome. Bringing the next generation into the world is our greatest responsibility - and joy. But let's not get carried away with it, either. Jeffrey Archer's greatest contribution to politics was to knock the Blair babe off the front pages.

There is some some quiet hilarity in the Gordon Brown camp over inspired leaks suggesting that he will be obliged to move out of No 10, having never lived in No 11. It would be quite unnecessary. The Chancellor's flat, inhabited by the Blairs at Cherie's insistence since May 1997 (she had a secret pre-election tour of the premises), has five bedrooms and is perfectly sufficient for their needs. Moreover, it is a long hike to the hereditament next door. So any talk of eviction is based on empire building, not need.

In any event, Ir'n Broon has a comfy pad in Great George Street, which he bought years ago as part of prudence with a purpose. Basically, it's a bookshop with sofas. His home in Fife is much the same. When I paid a visit with his big brother, I asked when Gordie moved in. Last month? Last week? No, eight years ago, he confessed, he just hadn't finished unpacking. No wonder his mother threw out a bin bag containing his collected speeches.

AlI of which permits the retelling of the best Brown flat story. Broon's old home in Edinburgh was burgled. Superintendent Elphinstone Dalgleish, or one of his minions, surveyed the wreckage of Brown's study, which looked as if Typhoon Beryl had been through, and apologised for the vandalism. "No," said Gordon, "they haven't been in here."

Lord Liar must have known that his downfall was only a matter of time for the best part of three weeks before he finally confessed to William Hague. But that didn't stop him attending a Conservative Central Office cheerleading session for Tory staff at Westminster on 18 November, shortly before he quit. He bored the pants off assembled party workers and MPs' assistants with a characteristically self-important election speech.

The undisgraced Northern Ireland Secretary has done nothing to quell speculation that his time at Stormont is merely a brief colonial interlude before he returns in triumph to become foreign secretary in Tony Blair's next reshuffle. Mandelson's calculation depends on the IRA handing over their weapons on schedule by next May. He describes their assurances as "dependable", though he may come to appreciate that things are not always what they seem in Ulster. Still, if he does come back in record time, Mandy will not have to mix overmuch with his political underlings in Belfast. When he took over the job, officials at No 10 asked the big borrower if he would like to meet his junior ministers. "Do I have to?" he asked. His hauteur may explain the fixed frown on the face of Adam Ingram, the security minister, when Mandy took departmental questions in the Commons.

Janet Street-Porter's presence at the editor's desk of the Independent on Sunday bodes well for gossip writers everywhere. She hurled down a feature article about the lifestyles of gay men in Britain and the US, snarling contemptuously: "This isn't what I want. I want men in swimming trunks and buggery!"

Just when the new Labour boss class thought the debacle of the Welsh Assembly leadership election was forgotten, along comes bad-boy MP Paul Flynn with a seditious book, Dragons Led by Poodles. It records in detail the inside story of Alun Michael's victory over Rhodri Morgan, and is dedicated to "all those whose lives were damaged by the Stitch-ups". Flynn has resurrected Blair's patronising remark that "the Welsh must put aside their dark, despairing Celtic side" as a prologue to some doggerel by Rupert Blair, including the verse:

To save you from mad kith and kin
I have sent you little Alun
Your Celtic thoughts are dark and mixed
So his election I have fixed

The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror"

This article first appeared in the 29 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An explosion of puffery