Evidence emerges at an ill-tempered Commonwealth summit that Tony Blair is turning into Little Britain's Sebastian. Make-up on and cameras rolling in Malta for an interview with ITV's posh political chap Tom Bradby, the Downing Street bed blocker throws a hissy fit over a question about Big Gordie's applications for the post. Blair throws back his head, sighs, then raises an eyebrow before patronisingly inquiring, "How long have you been doing this?" He follows his rhetorical query with a curt "Not very long" before Bradby gets in a "Ten years, Prime Minister". Downing Street issues an unprecedented ban on questions about domestic issues from scribblers at a press conference. Later in the week the PM embarks on his toe-touching tour of new Europe without a media posse. Bothered.
The real source of Blair's irritation is sizing up cabinet colleagues after Foreign Office attendants lost his new smart black overcoat on Remembrance Sunday, the Chancellor disowning an inferior old, small, shabby apology for a garment left hanging in an empty cloakroom. The
diminutive Commons tearoom fixture John Reid denies involvement, though the Airdrie brawler's bonhomie is taken as a sign that he fancies his chances of slipping into Blair's shoes if not Brown's coat. An MP unlikely to put his X next to the Defence Secretary's name is Weaver Vale's Mike Hall. My man with the teapot scolds Reid for failing to thank Hall when the Cheshire MP was replaced as a bag-carrying PPS by willing Siobhain McDonagh.
Demob-happy Michael Howard is punted for corporate engagements as he prepares to do what former Tory leaders do best: make money. Advertising him alongside a Concorde pilot, a female magician and the jailbird Nick Leeson, agents extol Howard's belief in the values of hard work, honesty, tolerance and patriotism, but omit high fees and generous expenses. The Sun meanwhile hopes its new big-money ranter, David Blunkett (the serial resigner), eschews past practice and writes his own column.
The Medway Mauler, Bob Marshall-Andrews, sends a letter to constituency members over the terror revolt bout with the Lewisham Slugger, Jim Dowd.
Bob M-A repeats his insistence that he mumbled faccio rather than faggot. "For the record, Jim Dowd is not gay . . . Doubtless I have many vices but homophobia is not one of them," writes the Labour QC. Predictions the truce would last until February suddenly appear hideously optimistic.
Forks are downed at the Monday-night dining club set up by Labour's new intake after the House authorities refused to lift a ban on tables being pushed together. The 050505 club boycotts the members' dining room, switching the gathering to the less salubrious stranger's cafeteria. Convener Lyn Brown is considering other forms of direct action but an eat-in is ruled out.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror