The insider - Kevin Maguire
The case of the hoity-toity whip, Awkward Angela's triumph, and Carry On Cobra
As potential feuds go, this one is very promising. Placid until provoked, the government whip Joan Ryan is plotting revenge against Edward Garnier, the Tory home affairs chap - who, I confidently predict, will come to regret having called Ryan "hoity-toity" within hearing range. Our former teacher is planning to give the barrister boy lessons in good manners, though her description of him as a "patronising snob" suggests he won't enjoy them. Then again, he went to a public school, so perhaps he'll relish a good beating.
After the earthquake of seeing his supporters recently lose elections for the parliamentary committee of the PLP - the Westminster shop stewards' panel - now comes the aftershock for Tony Blair. Herculean arm-twisting failed to prevent awkward Angela Eagle pipping Janet Anderson, a loyalist, by a single vote for the vacant PLP seat on Labour's National Executive Committee. Awkward Angela's triumph was all the more remarkable because a member of the Campaign Group, Lynne Jones, split the anti-leadership forces. No wonder Blair couldn't wait to get away on his holidays.
It's Liberal Democrat games for the aged sprinter Ming Campbell as his coaches continue to contemplate running their man in a leadership race against Champagne Charlie. Olympian Ming, reports my man in the trainers, is reluctant to put his feet, let alone his head, in the blocks. Apparently grand Ming and his even grander wife, Elspeth,
have their eyes on the Speaker's chair. The word, however, is that the yellow victory in the Cheadle by-election will prove a false fresh start for Champers. As for the Tories, relieved that he resisted pressure from HQ to stand in Cheshire is Tim Collins, ex of Westmorland and Lonsdale.
Further details emerge from Carry On Cobra, the farcical emergency meeting of ministers and security chiefs held an hour after the London bombings. Assurances from the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, that he was in full control are undermined by disclosures that Chief Super knew far less than the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling. Curiously David Blunkett, Clarke's shadow, insisted on attending, though for once he kept his mouth shut. A despairing minister present suggested they switch on Sky News to find out what was happening. They split up and did just that.
Blushes all round after Hartlepool's newish Labour MP, Iain "I'm a local lad" Wright, found himself at the centre of an extraordinary tug of love between those health femmes Rosie Winterton and Jane Kennedy. Both ministers, I gather, wanted Wrighty to carry their bags. Winterton duly won, and the pin-up PPS is now trotting two paces behind her clutching the red boxes. An unreconstructed colleague from the
north-east congratulated him by pointing out that women had never fought over his predecessor, Peter Mandelson.
And finally, moist eyes on Labour's geriatric wing at the end of Ted Heath's long sulk. Tearful senior lefties recall how, back in 1971, the Tory prime minister entertained the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders shop stewards at No 10, pouring tea for communist Jimmys Airlie and Reid. Mournful fellow-travellers note T Blair's distaste for Reds. The Labour PM evidently prefers communitarians to communists.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror