They never drink

A rat - indeed, Roland Rat - is to swim back to the sinking ship once the captain is replaced on the bridge by the first mate. Grey Dyke is preparing, so telly lubbers assure me, to reboard the leaking liner SS Labour - abandoning the Liberal Democrat rowing boat - once Big Gordie succeeds Tony "Encore" Blair. Handing the great returner his old job back at the BBC is beyond even Big Gordie. Mutinous Brownites, however, look forward to blowing a loud raspberry at the soon-to-retire skipper by politically rehabilitating Dyke in a post-Blair world.

Knock, knock. Lord Ashcroft of Moneybags, the multimillionaire who liked the Tories so much that he bought the party, is sufficiently wealthy to afford a fashionable footie club and still have enough left over to pay for his party's efforts at the next election. It is, however, at quaintly old-fashioned Watford that Lord A has rented an executive box for the season. Visitors are advised to look for the door with the "7 Cowley Street" plaque before enjoying the drinks, if not the game. My man at the turnstile bets a tenner that Dodgy Dave the plastic fan fails to turn up for the Aston Villa game. Any takers?

Prime ministers come, prime ministers go, yet it has emerged that rock-hard footie fan Big Gordie found time during his paternity leave to pen a note congratulating Niall "Goody-Two-Boots" Quinn on taking over as chairman of Sunderland. Since receiving the Chancellor's vote of confidence, Quinn has sacked himself as manager after five straight defeats. Treasury aides have suggested a letter promising to support Blair during his troubles, confident the curse of Big Gordie will guarantee swift regime change.

Beep, beep. Dropped jaws in Terry Duffy House, the West Midlands home of comrades in the region's Labour Party and Amicus trade union, when Neena Gill MEP roared into the car park. For some time Amicus has lobbied motorists to boycott Peugeot models over French plans to shut its Coventry factory. Gill appeared to be driving a shiny new number and, quelle surprise, it was a Peugeot. Cue harrumphing but, as yet, no picket.

Bad news for the Westminster lobby as the beleaguered band of Blairities in the Downing Street bunker plot to bypass political hacks. That leaked No 10 memo on Blue Peter and a feeble puff on the trumpet of Blairism contained a passage on talking to just about anyone other than parliamentary scribblers. When I pass on this news to lobby colleagues, cries of revenge are heard. Tee-hee.

I'm delighted to report that Charlie Kennedy's one-time press secretary, Jackie "He Was Never Drunk" Rowley, has a new job. After clearing Charlie's empties for years, she's to be director of comms at the General Medical Council, where she'll presumably find doctors are never drunk.

More on George "Big Boy" Osborne's bid to keep up with the Camerons by moving near his boss. Neighbours whisper that Big Boy turned up just once and failed to lift a finger as removal men sweated for four days. Dodgy Dave, on the other hand, carried a plant pot into his own new home. Big Boy's distaste for labour is so very New Con.

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

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