Village life - Kevin Maguire asks if Byers has gone Awol

How Tony helped Dave, to Old Etonian cheers, while everyone ignored Cherie

To the lengthy charge list of Tony Blair's political crimes compiled by Labour's irreconcilable wing is added the name of David "call me Dave" Cameron. Had Blair not allowed Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward into the Labour Party, reason the malcontents, there'd have been no vacancy in the Witney constituency, leaving the Conservative Party leadership favourite to do what TV types do best. Cameron's fumbling despatch performance on schools may yet force a rethink, with the novice failing to put the ball into the back of the open goal opposite that is Ruth Kelly. Afterwards, Cameron's trembling hands left him struggling to place his speech in an envelope.

Old Etonians are prematurely celebrating silver-spooned Cameron's success as proof toffs are back as a class at the top of the Conservatives, after a 40-year interregnum since fellow Old Etonian Sir Alec Douglas-Home stepped down. That other fine product of fagging, Nicholas "Fatty" Soames, declared within hearing: "Marvellous, absolutely marvellous. The natural order is reasserting itself." Cameron curiously missed a vote condemning Labour's open-all-hours licensing law, an abrogation of leadership surely unconnected to his past directorship of bar chain Urbium.

Newly unwelcome in Downing Street is devoted disciple Stephen Byers after voting for Clare Short's ill-fated bid to stop trigger-happy Blair going to war without Commons consent. No 10 issued firm instructions to kill the bill, but Byers joined half a dozen ex-cabinet ministers (Nick Brown, Frank Dobson, Andrew Smith, Gavin Strang, Short herself plus our man) to defy the outgoing premier. Byers may be blissfully unaware of his plight. Exiting the mock-Gothic fun palace after the Tories tried to hang, draw and quarter him for derailing Railtrack when he was fat controller, Byers boasted to a Labour fellow traveller: "It's only because I'm so close to the Prime Minister." You were, Stephen, you were.

Conspiracy theorists accuse No 10 of fanning the flames of the smoking ban row to divert eyes from Cherie's high-earning Aussie trip that left a cancer charity on its uppers. If so it was noble of Downing Street spinner Tom Kelly to singe his own reputation in the service of others. Kelly firmly declared no delay in the bill just hours before it was, er, postponed.

Writer, editor, test driver, novelist, lothario and sometime parliamentarian Boris Johnson is in Tory chief whip David Maclean's bad books. The Henley One's willingness to be an identity card martyr and go to prison instead of carrying an internal passport earns him little sympathy. My man with the big lugs heard Maclean ask: "You're against identity cards, aren't you, Boris?" "Oh yes I am," beamed the Henley One before Maclean's earthy retort: "Pity you couldn't get off your lazy fucking arse and vote against them."

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

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