The insider - Kevin Maguire spots a tie that tells tales

A rebel's surprising tie, a stalking horse on hols, and Alistair Darling saves the hacks

The rebel's rebel, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway, took to the airwaves to accuse the Prime Minister of being out of touch with Labour voters. Keen-eyed drinkers in northern working men's clubs will have spotted him sporting, it being May, the Garrick Club spring tie of pale green and pink stripes. That's worth an extra ten MPs begging Tony Blair to stay.

The lachrymose Marshall-Andrews feared the worst before the election, so posted invitations for a "win or lose" party afterwards. As it happens, the Sage of Medway declared himself defeated on election night until the returning officer reprieved him by 213 votes. Perhaps Blair could pop in for the "lose" part and leave before the "win" crowd tips up.

Word emerges of pints more blood spilt in the Tory party, this time involving two rising stars of Michael Howard's team. Rachel Whetstone, the Tory leader's political secretary, and David Cameron, his head of policy during the election and now education spokesman, are barely on speaking terms. Leading lights in the Notting Hill set whisper that the pair were once such good friends.

John Austin, the 60-year-old Labour MP who is said to be ready to saddle up and run as a "stalking horse" to unseat Tony Blair, is living proof that the struggle takes many forms. He was elected in 1992 as John Austin-Walker, before dropping the double-barrelled bit. To capture the historic declaration of intent, Sky News prepared to despatch a film crew to Austin's Erith and Thamesmead constituency. Brrrng, brrrng. "Can we have an interview, Mr Austin?" "Errr, I'm on holiday. In Spain."

The broken-nosed David Davis used to have a claim as the toughest MP. The wannabe Tory leader was a part-time SAS territorial army reservist who learned manoeuvres in his holidays.

Now another Tory MP, Adam Holloway, the victor at Gravesham, has arrived. A full-time SAS trooper, he trained to kill with the flick of a right eyebrow. The best Labour can muster is Major Eric Joyce, formerly of the Adjutant General's Corps, otherwise known as the army personnel department.

Meanwhile, Alistair Darling enhanced his reputation as a safe pair of eyebrows. Climbing aboard a helicopter with the PM, he spotted a luggage-hold door ajar on another chopper. Our hero rang air traffic control to point out that, in his job at transport, he'd read a few aviation reports, so knew it was unsafe. Whirring blades halted, the hatch was shut and the lives of an accompanying press pack were saved. Surprisingly, Darling survived the reshuffle.

With the Ulster Unionists nearly wiped out, Labour's Stephen Pound has given up hope that David Burnside, turfed out in South Antrim, will return a copy of Jimmy Greaves's autobiography that the Ealing MP lent him shortly before the dissolution. Pound was advised to nip round to Lord (Tony) Banks of Stamford Bridge, proudly showing off football programmes collected 50 years ago when Chelsea last won the league. There, Pound bought a new copy of Greavsie.

And it's ila lika to Mark Seddon, leaving Labour's national executive to join al-Jazeera as UN correspondent in New York. Blair will be seeing more of Seddon, much more.

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