The comeback of the original Tory Boy continues, as baldy William Hague prepares to step in for Citizen Dave at Prime Minister's Questions. Baby-faced Hague, once compared unfavourably to a foetus, is fine-tuning the gags should his successor-but-two's paternity leave coincide with the House sitting. Citizen Dave's latest vote-winning prop is due on 16 February and, with no formal deputy, he has placed the ex-leader on standby.
Sulking is ambitious George "I never took it" Osborne, Dave overlooking his pal and the most likely rival to Hague for the crown when he, Dave, is history. Labour intends
to have the last laugh, however. Geoff "Buff"
Hoon may be put up to bore Hague into submission, spoiling his big day.
Princess Cherie's weakness for Chinese pearls is returning to the boil as my gem of a Downing Street source whispers doubts about a payment by the acquisitive First Lady to Customs last year. Hate on Sunday bootboys claimed import duty was due on stones purchased on a trip with the outgoing PM. An ambiguous statement was taken to mean that a cheque had been written. With the disputed pearls apparently not registered as a gift, perhaps they were very cheap, or the Hate on Sunday is about to renew its inquiries.
Inner-city London is no stranger to gun crime, including the cop killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, so Kate "Tally" Hoey's call for young constituents to take up shooting prompts dropping jaws. Tally Hoey blasted critics with both barrels during a foray from Vauxhall to Worcester, the jodhpur-wearing Labour MP cum Countryside Alliance chair arguing that shooting in rural areas can improve behaviour in urban areas.
Inebriated reports from the parliamentary rugby club dinner as to who threatened whom in an animated discussion on the value of volunteers in sport. One arm-waving participant was so intoxicated that a fellow debater boasted he could blow him down. Denials fly as fast, witnesses conceding that details are hazy. Memo to Charlie Kennedy: you're not alone.
Talk of a Masonic cover-up after minutes of the Press Gallery lodge were inadvertently circulated to MPs when the scribbler secretary, Rob Gibson, pressed the wrong button on his computer. No copies have seen the light of day, suggesting that significant numbers of parliamentarians either don't read e-mails or go in for dodgy handshakes. Your columnist is not, nor has been, and offers a glass of the Sports & Social Club's finest bitter for a copy.
And the ultimate in new Labour privatisations: drinks with hacks. Green mistress Margaret Beckett contracted out the organisation of a media soiree to a Gloucestershire events outfit. The betting is that the wines will be the same old Whitehall antifreeze inside swankier bottles.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror