The insider - Kevin Maguire
Chief Super takes credit, a department for scroungers and hacks in search of a drink
Selflessly claiming credit for Tony Blair's sure-footed response to the terrible Tube and bus bombs is Charles "Chief Super" Clarke. The Home Secretary is telling anyone who will listen how he rang Gleneagles to advise the PM to leave the G8 summit, return to London to chair a Cobra meeting and then fly back to Scotland. After Ali C was badly mauled with the Lions, the premier remains in good hands with Chief Super. Jack Straw, who stepped into the G8 breach, has a particularly personal grudge against terrorists. The Foreign Secretary spent a March day 32 years ago in Bart's Hospital having shards of glass removed from his bottom after an IRA explosion at the Old Bailey, the pillar box our young barrister had crouched behind having proved an ineffective shield. Incidentally, Chief Super has ordered Special Branch security for all senior ministers, requiring Gordon Brown to drop his objections to men talking into their sleeves.
Out of bombed London to Blackpool and the T&G union conference, where that people's champion, ninetysomething Jack Jones, is the latest subject of a Blair-Brown bidding war. In a video message, the PM hailed Jones as one of Britain's greatest union leaders. Brown, in the hall, saluted Jones as one of the world's greatest. As a member of the T&G, Brown frequently referred to "our union", while Blair, also a card-carrier, resisted the temptation. The taped praise for the International Brigade veteran by Jose Luis Zapatero, the Spanish premier, failed to arrive in time. The courier misplaced it.
To a summer bash hosted by David Blunkett, the Yorkshire axeman, where the Pimm's flowed readily - too liberally for some scribblers, who developed temporary problems with the vertical hold. Blunkett recalled a Downing Street conversation after his appointment to the Department for Work and Pensions.
No 10's big idea was to rebrand ministries, but the wheeze was abandoned after transforming the DTI into something like PENIS was judged unpromising. Blunkett claimed that the alternatives kicked around for the DWP included Rights and Responsibilities, Hounding the Sick and Disabled, and Death to Scroungers. Only a blind cabinet minister clutching the lead of a guide dog could make such a politically incorrect quip. Or at least I think he was joking.
Michael Martin played "at home" in the the Speaker's apartment, surely the grandest council house in Britain save for Liz's tenancy up the Mall. Lashings more booze dispensed by the teetotal Martin, anxious to build bridges with hacks still sweating over his refusal to grant the traditional permission to remove jackets in the Press Gallery. Martin presented an award to Alfred Taban, a brave Sudanese journalist who exposed the Darfur genocide. As Westminster inmates clapped politely, Taban's family whooped and cheered. "Just like Glasgow," offered Martin.
Rebellion is stirring over the future of Westminster's watering holes. Annie's is rarely open, apparently for lack of a barman or barwoman. A clampdown on scribblers in Stranger's means we are chased from the premises on entering alone, ending the long practice of walking in to hail an MP in the quaint, invitation-only premises. The new chair of the catering committee should prepare to have his or her ear bent, very badly.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror