Paul Routledge

Further intelligence from the Anji Hunter front. The word at Westminster now is that Tony Blair's principal private aide quit her post because she knows that the Prime Minister proposes to stand down sooner rather than later. If anybody would know, she would, having been his closest confidante (Cherie apart) for the past three decades. And the suggestion of the Great Helmsman leaving the tiller chimes more convincingly as the real reason for her departure than doubling her salary at BP as director of communications.

Either way, Mo Mowlam is right: tension continues to exist between Blair and Gordon Brown. Blair intended to sound off enthusiastically about the euro when he addressed the CBI conference in Birmingham. The Chancellor was not due to speak until the following day, but got his retaliation in first by addressing a bosses' dinner the night before.

He reiterated the "five tests" text (drawn up with his adviser Ed Balls in the back of a cab in New York), and Blair was forced to say that the policy had not changed, much to the bemusement of accompanying hacks, who had been tipped off to expect a big plug for the single currency.

Whingeing nudist Bernard Jenkin, the shadow defence secretary, complains that he gets no extra staff, no driver, no security and no extra pay for the onerous duty of shadowing "Buff" Hoon. His wife, Anne, wailed to his local paper in Essex that "all he gets is the same £45,000 a year as any back-bench MP". Really? Perhaps Bernie isn't tipping up his whole pay packet on the kitchen table. MPs are paid £55,000 a year.

New York's new mayor, the sixtysomething bachelor Mike Bloomberg, head of the financial news agency, lists his interests as running things and chasing women. As a pretty young British City journalist can affirm. When she visited the agency's futuristic London HQ, Bloomberg pinched her bottom. Her boss told her to say nothing. In America, she would be a damages millionaire now.

David Triesman, the ex-communist general secretary of the Labour Party and Spurs loony, declined an offer to sit in the stand with his trade union mates for the local derby with Arsenal. Why should he, when there was a seat for him in the directors' box alongside Labour's Tottenham MP, David Lammy?

For the first time in living memory, there is a prospect of a contested election for the chairmanship of the Westminster press lobby. James Hardy, the angular political editor of the Mirror, would be pitched against the socially active George Pascoe-Watson, deputy political editor of the Sun. Hardy is the front-runner, not least because of fears that Pascoe-Watson would sanction the wearing at Westminster of the black leather trousers he sports while "clubbing" (I think that is the term) in Richmond. Also, it would be unusual for a mere deputy to chair the lobby. My bet is that there will be no contest, and a third party will emerge from the shadows as a shoo-in.

To Politico's for the launch of Graham Allen's seditious pamphlet urging that we make Blair president and have done with it. Lighthouse-sized Allen, a senior whip until the clear-out in June, tells me he saw his successor in the lobby. "I've read your book," said the Blairite loyalist. "It's f***ing rubbish." Allen promised to put more pictures in his next work.

Continuing our series on muesli-scoffing, sandal-wearing David Blunkett, who does not suffer fools gladly but finds his own company perfectly congenial. It is not widely known that the Home Secretary is on first-name terms with two powerful tabloid editors: Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail and David Yelland at the Sun. He regularly dines with them a deux. These friendships may account for their fawning coverage of Blunkett's anti-terrorism bill, which permits detention without trial but also bans the wearing of face paint or gloves by protesters.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Special Report - The SAS story they want to suppress