Paul Routledge

New baby notwithstanding, life is not exactly plain sailing in Downing Street. Bill Bush, former head of political research at the BBC, who perhaps unwisely accepted the new Labour shilling (or many thousands of them), is unhappy about his obscure new role as Tony Blair's adviser. He moans to friends that he is lucky if he gets ten minutes a week with the great helmsman, which is not enough to make the right impact. Careful, Bill.

Perhaps he should observe the fate of Jon Sopel, quondam hagiographer of the Prime Minister who has been disappeared to Paris by the BBC. His affection for No 10 could not be questioned.

Engagingly, one hears that Blair is still fulminating against his "johnny-reb" employees - including Charlie Whelan and Geoffrey Robinson, former paymaster-general and proprietor of this journal. "Why," he demanded of the Chancellor, "are they still talking to the press about us?" lr'n Broon replied: "But didn't you sack the pair of them a year ago?"

Westminster nicknames have a habit of sticking, so it is surprising that circumferential defence minister Peter Kilfoyle doesn't mind being called "Fatty Arbuckle". At least it's better than Kate "Tally" Hoey, the country sports-loving sports minister. Entry of the week must be the new Defence Secretary, Geoffrey "Buff" Hoon. Try saying it out loud.

John Prescott is to have a media make-over. Along with every other cabinet minister, he moans that he doesn't have an Alastair Campbell or a Charlie Whelan to give him the right profile. So the press office of the sprawling Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions is to be revamped at great public expense, and one Derek Plews becomes Prezza's personal spin-doctor. Derek who? Evidently a career civil servant. We must wish him every good fortune. He will have his work cut out to rebut the current whispering campaign against the Deputy Prime Minister, traceable back through his Westminster lobby courtiers to Peter Mandelson. Since the accession of a power-sharing administration at Stormont, he may be largely redundant at the Northern Ireland Office, but he doesn't need the devil to find work for his idle hands.

They say one thing in public, but do another in the privacy of the bookshop. The best-seller at Politico's stall at the Tory women's conference in Solihull? Michael Crick's highly critical, nay executionary, biography of Lord Archer.

The transport minister Lord Whitty, known to admirers as the thinking man's Des Lynam, is dismayed to discover that the safety of the London Eye, aka the Big Wheel, has been added to his burgeoning list of responsibilities. He is scared witless of going up in the thing. For the moment, he has a more pressing problem. His department is busily installing thousands of experimental solar-powered Catseyes on selected roads around the country. They light up the highway like an airport runway, and show red and green as well as white. Such fun. And the kids have noticed that. They're digging them up by the bucketload to wear as fashion accessories while out clubbing. One-fifth have gone already.

To Sky Television for an interview with the drugs tsar Keith Hellawell, two years into his three-year contract to wean Britain off cannabis. I suggest he be shown the early takes, so he can claim the title of Tsar of all the Rushes, which must be the corniest joke of the season. Hellawell, a former miner and secondary-school boy from West Yorkshire, is a decent and well-meaning man, but he seems to have succumbed to the worst Whitehall jargon. He insists that his ten-year strategy will work, but is coy about any suggestion of an extension to his £106,000 a year contract. How else will he finance his foreign travel and that haircut, famously the most expensive in the police service?

The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror"