Paul Routledge

Robin Cook's ill-tempered attack on Gordon Brown - leaked authoritatively to the Sunday Torygraph, whatever the Foreign Secretary says by way of denial - is causing a bit of a stir. For the source, look no further than Cookie's long-serving political adviser David Clark, who enjoys nothing more than a game of golf with the political staff of the Sun. So perhaps we shall see the rancour served up a second time. In shorter words.

Peers in profusion at the launch of ex-minister Peter Kilfoyle's memoirs, including two former Labour general secretaries, milords Whitty and Sawyer, who exchange their customary glacial greetings. The Dome minister Lord Falconer also turns up. "We're not acquainted . . . " I begin, before he cuts in: "Oh yes, we are. Last time we met, you fell asleep with your head on my shoulder."

Oh, all right then. But tell me this: having lost so much weight, how does Charlie's suit still fit him? Does he have a wardrobe that accommodates his fluctuating political fortunes?

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the engineering union, is inviting all-comers in the media to a celebration bash at a swanky Park Lane hotel in January to be attended by senior government ministers. The "special rate" is £1,000 a head if you book a table for ten. Cheques made out to the AEEU, please, but the ultimate beneficiary is no doubt Labour's general election fund. Forgive my inconvenient memory, but is this not the same AEEU that two years ago withheld £1m from the party in order to get more proles into parliament, and so remedy Labour's middle-class bias?

Downing Street's freshly acquired provincial guru, Phil Murphy (ex- Yorkshire Post), has asked local papers to fax him their first editions so he can monitor the progress of his campaign to go over the heads of the nationals to "real people" in t'towns and t'villages. The last person to believe in this nonsense was John Major. Appalling to relate, some titles have even gone along with the idea.

The brochure of Christmas goodies available from the Labour Party comes gift-wrapped in Millbank's glossy magazine. Among the tat (a green mug with the legend "Tough on Crime" and a silver Holloway brooch with a jailer's arrow) is a video entitled The Story of the Labour Party. But this is not the video history originally commissioned from the film-maker Tom Steel and the writer Peta van den Bergh by Lord Sawyer. They've spent several thousand pounds filming, researching and doing interviews, but their calls to the general secretary Margaret McDonagh go unanswered. And who is the mystery author of the authorised W H Smith version? I do not propose spending £16.99 to find out.

To Northern Ireland for more research on the Airey Neave book, where the (publicly owned) railways are in just as much of a mess as over here. A notice at Belfast Central announces, with a certain Hibernian satisfaction, that passengers can expect disruption for 71 weeks. Nobody has a good word to say for Peter Mandelson, who cannot make the trains run on time, or even at all. However, Mandy is said to be on very close terms with David Trimble, the UUP leader. He may come to regret this friendship at the local elections. Defections from the pro-Agreement Unionists to Ian Paisley's DUP are an almost daily occurrence.

Alastair Campbell's double, the actor Andrew Dunn, came as my guest to the Press Gallery lunch in honour of the Prime Minister's press secretary. Despite my best endeavours, they met in the lift. "You've got a double chin!" sniffed Ali. Maybe he should take another look in the mirror. Still, both behaved impeccably, and much light entertainment all round, notwithstanding Campbell's sermon against cynicism in the media. Cynicism? This is from the spokesman for a party that loudly proclaimed, on the subject of air traffic control: "Our air is not for sale."

The writer is chief political commentator for the Mirror and a biographer of Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson

This article first appeared in the 27 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of stealthy wealth