Village life - Kevin Maguire flies with Big Geordie to Israel, and back

Big Gordie makes two mistakes, Blair's man loses out, and the truth about feasting MPs

A flying visit to Israel with a day-tripper Chancellor after Gordon Brown is recalled to Britain mid-air. In power but not in office, Big Gordie is none too pleased after day follows night on a 767. Unlike outgoing premier Tony Blair, Brown chats freely with the press pack - prematurely boasting his vote for the terror bill wasn't needed, then fielding questions on the fiasco for half an hour at Tel Aviv before getting back on the plane he'd just got off. Big Gordie admits he never collects air miles, surely his silliest Treasury mistake.

The smirk on the face of Blunkett slayer Chris "The Jackal" Grayling stiffens as reminders of a past business venture drizzle on his victory parade. The Jackal was, it is recalled, managing director of a company forced into liquidation a decade ago with debts of £32,000. Jackal describes joining the firm before he sat on the green benches as a "hideous mistake", insisting he quit before it went belly up. Speculation continues over whether Jackal's victim Blunkers jumped or was pushed. Intriguingly, TV political hacks were briefed by the PM's people that Blunkers was history before he returned to No 10 for a

second chat. Depending on how gullible you are, he resigned or was resigned.

An unprecedented rebellion on Labour's national executive committee sees Blair nominee and hot union favourite Ray Collins beaten 16 votes to 10 by the nomenklatura's near-invisible Peter "Who?" Watt for the post of party general secretary. Defiant "Who?" Watt was instructed not to run by Downing Street cheese John McTernan, McFixer proclaiming the party official's career over if he did. "Who?" Watt is pondering McFixer's future.

Prodigious quantities of fish and seafood are consumed by feasting MPs, with new figures showing nothing's too good for our elected representatives. In the past 12 months they scoffed 20kg of brown shrimps, 32kg of lobsters, 60kg of oysters, 656kg of mussels and a gut-busting 1,683kg of scallops. Nicholas "Fatty" Soames must account for a sizeable proportion. Marine conservationists complain many species on parliamentary plates risk extinction - pretty much like the Blairites.

First stop on Gordon Brown's leader-in-waiting British tour was the Hull constituency of the Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Johnson, a near neighbour of John Prescott and tipped as a deputy PM-in-waiting. At dinner in the local stadium, Big Gordie mentions Tony Blair precisely once - coincidentally the number of times he refers to the obscure Victorian founder of the local party branch. The Chancellor's new buzz phrase is "the cause", uttered six times. Blair makes a comeback in the auction's lot 4. A copy of his collected speeches plus bottle of Commons claret signed by the Downing Street job-blocker inexplicably prove so popular two pairs are sold at £320 a pop. My man with the whippet suggests they enjoy scarcity value.

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

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