Paul Routledge

The hunt is on for the mole who leaked "minutes" of the 1997 Cabinet meeting that gave the go-ahead for the disastrous Dome. No 10 claims the Mail on Sunday's story is creative accounting (and I do not suppose that the paper's political editor is known in the trade as "Shifty" for nothing), but it smells right. On the usual test of cui bono, suspicion centres on the Brownites, particularly after the Chancellor's public avowal of collective responsibility, which gives him another favour to call in, as if his quiver were not already full. Brown is one of the few ministers who have been nowhere near the Mandy Zone.

The American presidential election show attracted vast numbers of BBC egos - all men, needless to say. David Dimbleby was well miffed at travelling business class, especially as Jeremy Paxman flew first. Charlie Whelan went steerage, although Radio 5 Live has as many listeners as Newsnight has viewers.

David Shayler, the loud-mouthed self-publicist who must have been the most unwise recruit to MI5 ever, has written a novel now being hawked around publishers. They are aghast. One simply says it is "unreadable". And he's read it.

To nobody's surprise, it is deeply unflattering about HMG and the "intelligence" services, but the book also has a dark sexual side. "Really?" I ask. "Erm, S&M," says my snout. It appears that publishers are really more interested in Shayler's enigmatic girlfriend, Annie Machon, who is a clever and fascinating creature - and who was his boss at Five.

A copy of the Conservative leather-style diary for 2001 drops on my desk. The frontispiece is a lugubrious colour portrait of William Hague, hands in his pockets and looking (as my mother used to say, and, I suspect, so did his) as if he'd lost a shilling and found sixpence. The diary contains a full list of the shadow cabinet as it was, well, as it was before the latest Tory party conference, three months before the year's end. Ergo, Sir George Young, the failed contender for Speaker, is still shadow leader of the House, while his mumsy successor, Angela Browning, remains shadow trade secretary. And so on, the past lovingly recreated. I know these things go to press early, but you'd think the opposition might want to look a bit more up to date.

This particular gobbet comes merely out of mordant entertainment, but none the less well sourced for that: Princess Diana was buried in the coffin made for the Queen Mother.

A new volume, Memories of Maggie, a compilation of recollections of the Queen of Finchley edited by lain Dale of Politico's, ought to be the most puke- making book around. But it isn't, because most of the contributors write about themselves. My favourite is Adam Boulton, the political editor of Sky News, who labours under the delusion that the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is actually called the Okapi (a kind of African antelope, I believe) and offers the wonderfully circular remark: "With hindsight, we in the Westminster press corps were as well placed as anyone to see the end coming." He also reveals: "I expect Tony Blair to resign in a second term." How can he ever look the Great Helmsman in the eye again?

We go to press before my little bit of badness comes to fruition, or not. The august Parliamentary Press Gallery (currently riven by a scandal involving alleged favouritism and a whiff of the security services that not even I dare write about) is honouring, if that is the right word, Alastair Campbell with a formal lunch, so that he can slag us off in public as well as in private. I have invited Andrew Dunn, the actor who plays Campbell on the Rory Bremner Show, as my guest. It would be quite wrong to get them to meet in the way that suspects in Inspector Frost are "innocentIy" confronted with their victims in a police station corridor. But I cannot be responsible for the actions of others.

Paul Routledge is the chief political commentator for the Mirror

This article first appeared in the 20 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Interview - Lord Falconer