The insider - Kevin Maguire on party wannabes

Conference wannabes, Prezza's summer glory, and a punt on the Tories

As the economy slips into a deep summer slumber and police play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with terrorist bombers, quiet diplomacy has resolved the single most controversial issue of next month's Labour conference. After years of lobbying, the party's National Executive Committee has secured a prominent place in the hall. Labour's smiley chief apparatchik, Matt Carter, has decreed that the NEC seats will move to - wait for it - within full view of TV cameras. Escaping from the corner next to the lavatories has its drawbacks, however. Carter says the right to be seen goes with a responsibility to turn up: and so NEC members must forsake drinks for debates. Oscars-style substitutes suggested by one thirsty politico are considered too nouveau by a general secretary seeking traditional seating in a modern setting.

John Prescott, finding time in his busy schedule to run the country while Tony Blair snorkels for a week or two, is an accomplished holiday rep. The Patels of Harrow, I'm told, were not the first family diverted from Madame Tussaud's by the Deputy Prime Minister, and certainly won't be the last. It transpires that Prezza is so proud of his annual short tenancy of No 10 that he nabs tourists off the streets to witness his glory. If slapped-down David Blunkett still wants to gain entry, perhaps he could put on a pair of shorts and flip-flops and walk up Whitehall. Blair's main worry is Prezza's annual reunion with shipmates from the old seadog's ocean-going days - but the former Atlantic-liner steward never forgets to clear away the empties.

The burden of attempting to chair a Tory party unwilling to be led has taken its toll on Francis Maude, who is preparing to step down after November's bloodfest to spend more time making money. Strangely, the prospect of new directorships is more alluring than dealing with the bruised egos and thirst for vengeance of defeated leadership candidates. Bookies are still taking bets on a wide field. Ladbrokes makes David Davis the furnace-hot favourite at 1-2 on, with David Cameron at 5-2, followed by Ken Clarke if he can be fagged at 10-1, Liam Fox 12-1, Malcolm Rifkind 20-1, David Willetts 33-1, Tim Yeo 33-1 and Maude, despite ruling himself out, 50-1. Great young hope (retired hurt) William Hague is at 20-1 and Iain Duncan Smith at a humiliating 500-1, behind even that eager beaver Ed Vaizey, whose friends rang up to slap £20 on the Wantage MP so that he can boast he is rated a runner.

Swathes of forest and a not inconsiderable proportion of public spending are invested by the Labour tyro Siobhain McDonagh to inform the good people of Mitcham and Morden of her unstinting efforts on their behalf. Rumours persist that McDonagh once canvassed on Christmas Day, but these are unfounded. (However, the denial prompted suggestions that it must have been Boxing Day, then.)

Target number one of the Defence Secretary's new bag carrier is antisocial behaviour, the weapon being McD's own campaign for good neighbourliness, including considerate parking outside houses. So savour for a moment the glee of a resident fed up with junk mail on spotting a parking ticket plastered across the windscreen of McD's nippy red MG convertible. Closer inspection showed that a council permit to keep the motor outside her Colliers Wood home expired at the end of May. Tut-tut.

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