Village life - Kevin Maguire finds an irony-free zone

An irony problem at the BNP, the plot for the Speaker's chair, and second prize for T Blair

Irony is too subtle for the BNP Führer Nick Griffin's goons, which presumably is why his heavies were unable to appreciate that the joke was on them during a canvassing blitzkrieg. The flag-waving patriots, posing as champions of Queen and country, invaded Sandwell in a black, er, German-built Audi. The mockery of a Labour canvassing team on the streets of West Bromwich drew an appropriate

response, one of Griffin's henchmen winding down the window to shout obscenities at John Spellar, the bearded MP for Warley.

The incident is recorded in the West Midlands as the first occasion that Spellar, still a cold war warrior more than a dozen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, suffered abuse from the right instead of the left.

Michael Martin's return after surgeons located and then re-bored the Speaker's heart has done little to dampen speculation over who will eventually succeed him, following accusations from Labour young guns that his ambitious stand-in, Sir Alan Haselhurst, tended to favour his own Tory colleagues. Upstarts plotting to manoeuvre a third successive Labour stalwart into the chair are discussing whom to champion, my chap with the big ears overhearing the names of Sylvia Heal, John Denham and awkward Chris Mullin. That of Gwyneth Dunwoody, parts of whom are thought to be older than the institution of speaker itself, was swiftly discounted. The tyros slapped a back-bench preservation order on the Crewe granny.

As he awaits a pay day, should Mrs O gush to Hello! of her surprise on learning she was married to a customer of rent boys, Mark "Quaker" Oaten is squandering what little sympathy remains on the Liberal Democrat benches. He tells those who will listen how his mid-life epiphany made him realise how much he resented orders to preach tougher, new-Labour-style lines on law'n'order as home affairs spokesman. Clearly, given the nature of his extra-parliamentary activities, Quaker is another one who is suffering an irony problem. "Rat on make", by the way, is an anagram of Mark Oaten.

Fresh evidence of the decline in the value of the outgoing premier: a bottle of Commons champagne, supposedly signed by T Blair, is relegated to second prize at a London Labour raffle. The winner is to get a grand, more than sufficient to hire a few sets of Star Trek outfits to follow John "Spock" Redwood around. Disgruntled MPs note that the party would raise more money by asking selfless Ali C for that £47,000 back, or moneybags Philip Gould to return his £143,000.

Citizen Dave insists he does not dye, nor has he ever dyed, his barnet. His locks, he informed a visitor, are as natural as the day he was born with a full silver dinner service in his mouth. I trust that's the end of the frivolous tittle-tattle . . . save for the Silvikrin Kid's copious consumption of hairspray.

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

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