The insider - Kevin Maguire raises Scots eyebrows

Auld Scots acquaintances, giggling scribblers and fighting brethren

Raised eyebrows north of the border as the former Scottish Labour leader Henry "McLolly" McLeish climbs into bed with not one old political foe, but three. McLolly, forced to quit four years ago as first minister over unorthodox constituency funding arrangements, is either a very forgiving man or downright desperate. He is to become a consultant for the PR firm Halogen Communications, run by a Tory ex-Scottish Office minister, Raymond Robertson. That's the Raymond Robertson who branded him a disaster and welcomed his resignation. McLolly will work alongside the media strategist Tim Luckhurst, who wrote in 2001: "If anyone can deliver incompetence, Henry can . . ." Oh, and McLolly is writing a book on Scottish expats with Kenny MacAskill, SNP spokesman on justice and home affairs. Let's hear no more about Scottish politics being an incestuous business.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott (old Labour), made his peace with the disillusioned Blairite Mo Mowlam during a private visit to her hospice bedside shortly before she died. There was some surprise in the party's inner circles, however, when her grieving husband, Jon Norton, repeated Mowlam's view that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, would make a poor premier. Norton said she felt her relationship with Brown deteriorated 15 years ago, when she did well in Labour's shadow economic team. Brownites date the rift to the night Brown, then a bachelor, rebuffed an approach from a single Mowlam.

Make of this what you will in an era of endless media lists and lists of lists. The annual summer poll of political scribblers by Nigel Morris of the Independent found that hacks rated Fawlty Towers the funniest television comedy, followed by Blackadder and The Office. The Whitehall farce Yes, Minister finished just outside the medals. What tickles the Westminster lobby is not as irrelevant as you might at first think. Previous surveys covered fruit, veg and Beatles tracks.

Verbal sparring in the barbecue brawl union, Aslef, this time over what to call its own official history. The author, Rob Griffiths, who, as a candidate for the Communist Party of Britain, came within 20,686 votes of toppling Labour's Kim Howells in Pontypridd at the general election, wants the punchy title Splendid Fighting Days. The leadership of the train drivers' union, still haunted by last year's fisticuffs in the garden of their Hampstead headquarters, favour the more prosaic Organising Aslef: a 125-year journey. Griffiths chest-puffingly insists the title is his intellectual property. Acas conciliators are on standby.

The decision by Labour's Matt Carter, disclosed in last week's column, to place the National Executive Committee in a prominent spot at the party shindig next month, is backfiring. After Ann Black, an NEC member, complained about the gloomy corner it had to occupy at last year's conference, an unsympathetic fellow delegate e-mailed her: "Sorry about the NEC seats being in darkness, but it helped one day. I saw someone so soundly asleep that her head was parallel to the ground. She only woke up when she banged it on the seat next to her."

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

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