The newly bronzed one enthusiastically revived democratic sofalism on a flying visit to Britain between Barbados and Beijing. As cabinet ministers begged for just five precious minutes of his time to discuss pressing matters of state, the Prime Minister devoted a day to schmoozing those who really matter to a new Labour leader. Invited one by one into Tony Blair's Downing Street den for cosy chats about tans and Cliff Richard records were the political editors of the BBC, ITV and Sky. Your average secretary of state must wait until the end of September to grab a word. That's September 2006.
Old puffer Ken ("I'm an ordinary bloke, you know") Clarke has shed a few pounds for the Tory leadership race and, though no Stakhanovite, has even been burning the midnight oil in a near-deserted Commons. David Davis, the front-runner, so fancies his own chances, he's already seeking an Alastair Campbell to tell tales for him in power. I discover that the ex-SAS man's chief of staff, Iain Dale, secretly approached the garrulous BBC hack Guto Harri to be that spin-doctor. Harri declined, so potential candidates should write to Davis. David Cameron, the Old Etonian rebranded Dave to counter Mr Ordinary Bloke, is to declare his candidacy after the 27 September ballot of party bigwigs. Davis intends to wait until after the Tory conference.
Conmen, topless models, Aztec rebirthing pyramids and missing weapons of mass destruction have raised the bar for satirists, but that old Reuters hand John Morrison has a jolly good go in Anthony Blair, Captain of School. An Edwardian yarn about a posh college, Morrison's book has a toast fag called Mandelson and the headmaster is a certain Mr Bush. It is all about character and whether boys tell the truth or not after a bullied pupil, David Kelly, dies. Some boys, like some premiers, plainly regard truth as an occupational hazard best avoided.
More money worries for Jane Griffiths. The dumped MP has been called to Reading County Court on 19 September to be examined over an unpaid tax bill. The Official Receiver accused Griffiths, occupation unknown, of failing to co-operate. The former Labour member for Reading East assures her local paper that the hearing is a terrible misunderstanding due to a wrongly delivered letter and that an epistle from her, plus cheque, will fix it. Declared bankrupt on 9 May, days after the election, Griffiths once sat on the public accounts committee, which scrutinises the country's financial affairs.
Collywobbles in John Smith House, Glasgow, over the Unison official Jim Devine's campaign to succeed Robin Cook in the Livingston by-election. Cookie's former agent has been forced to confess what was termed his "sex and drink shame", regretting a number of affairs and a drink-driving conviction five years ago. Labour bigwigs fear Cookie's 13,097 majority over the Scots Nats is being chipped away and nervous comrades recall Govan in 1988, when tattooed Bob Gillespie lost that safe seat to the SNP.