The insider - Kevin Maguire feels the earth move

The earth shakes for Blair, and David Davis turns left instead of right

Pushed kicking and screaming from a gathering of Labour's shop stewards were Ian "Big Mac" McCartney and Hilary "Rosa Klebb" Armstrong, with Geoff "Buff" Hoon wisely agreeing to depart quietly. The half-dozen backbenchers on the party's parliamentary committee are starting to flex their muscles with the "management". The Labour chairman, Chief Whip and Leader of the Commons were expelled so the gang of six could decide select committee chairmanships, blocking plans to parachute ex-ministers into the £13,100 posts. Prezza, I learn, wanted his sacked deputy Nick Raynsford to scrutinise his own department. And Gwyneth "Battleaxe" Dunwoody was saved as chair of "men and motors" when even the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, backed her reappointment. To the outside world, just a small tremor in Westminster; but a political earthquake for Tony Blair as he loses control of the parliamentary party.

The matinee idol David Davis crossed the floor, as Charles "Chief Super" Clarke's dream of a dog collar for every citizen creates an unholy alliance against ID cards.

Davis, blast-furnace-hot favourite with the bookies to become Tory leader, turned left instead of right on entering the Chamber during the second reading of the Identity Cards Bill, to sit a good five minutes on the Labour benches, halfway up the gangway, with that rebel's rebel, Bob

Marshall-Andrews. The ex-SAS man's manoeuvring to discuss tactics raised barely an eyebrow, though broken-nosed Davis is rumoured to have been trained to kill with a flick of a hairy lash.

Those lookalike baldies, the Blairite lobbyists Colin Byrne and David Yelland, have gone their separate ways after being mistaken for each other once too often. An ex-Labour press officer, Byrne has replaced his "Joe 90" glasses with contact lenses, leaving the former Sun editor David "Does a gay mafia run Britain?" Yelland to wear the NHS-rimmed specs in their relationship. Our conjoined twins are preparing to bury a rivalry over who knows Blair best so as to launch Operation Brown, an attempt to warm a cool relationship with the PM-in-waiting.

Both recognise that clients are unlikely to pay Blairites top dollars in a Brownite era. Bell Pottinger, a rival outfit, also sees the writing on the wall, inviting the Brown axewoman Shriti Vadera to a chat with corporate clients on 11 July.

The government skivvy Meg Munn is putting in the hours as minister for women. In a no-cash-for-questions scandal, Moneyless Munn (she's not paid for the post) rose to her feet more often than her seven salaried male colleagues at the DTI. Sisters suggest a backdated claim for overtime if she ever gets on the payroll. At least she can't be accused of prostituting her feminist principles.

My man in the wig reports another turn by the professional after-dinner raconteur William Hague, occasional MP for Richmond. "After Eight", as he is known by his erstwhile Commons colleagues, seems to have enjoyed a generous refresher before getting on his hind legs in front of well-lubricated lawyers. After Eight recounted how, at the final Prime Minister's Questions before the 2001 election, he toyed with asking Blair if he believed in Santa. If the PM replied yes, Hague hoped to make him look stupid. If Blair answered no, After Eight intended to accuse him of ruining Christmas for millions of kids.

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

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