Paul Routledge

Is this the first Zinoviev e-mail? Conservative officials are bleating that the electronic letter allegedly sent by their chairman, David Davis, to the Ipswich Tories, saying that the by-election there would be a test of lain Duncan Smith's leadership, is a fake. The Tories should know: they paid handsomely for the original Zinoviev letter, which helped bring down the first Labour government in 1924. It purported to be a message from a Soviet high-up urging violent revolution in Britain, but was actually a forgery concocted by emigre White Russians. On this occasion, the Tories suspect Millbank, but maybe the forgery claims are a cover-up to divert attention from Davis's shameless leadership ambitions.

So touching that lDS signs his private letters to the Prime Minister in the old-fashioned Scottish style: "Yours Aye". Incidentally, he is known in service circles as "a Rupert": a public schoolboy with not much brains who joined a Guards regiment, but only made it to captain.

The mystery Commons farter has been unmasked. The proceedings of a standing committee on children's affairs were rudely interrupted by a trouser cough so detonating that some MPs thought it was a terrorist attack. David Hinchcliffe, the Labour chairman, was consumed with giggles, and business came to a temporary halt. Fellow MPs on the committee have now denounced the culprit as a certain Labour PPS.

Another link with the past has gone. Boris Averyanov, the circumferential boss of the Soviet trade union system, has died. He was so much a fixture at TUC conferences that the red-obsessed (and also late) Blake Baker profiled him in the Daily Telegraph. We always knew who the spies masquerading as journalists were. They never took notes, or talked about stories. So it was no surprise to learn from Rufina Philby's memoirs that the genial Yuri Kobaladze, of "Moscow Radio", was a KGB general, and that his sidekick, the urbane Michael Bogdanov, was also a senior officer. Which reminds me of the question posed by a Mail man to Mick Costello, industrial organiser of our own Communist Party. "Ere, Mick, why is there nobody in the KGB under the rank of colonel?"

Soda syphons have been banned from the Lords' Bar at Westminster, for fear that a doddery old peer might drop one and it would explode. Such an event would no doubt bring in hordes of pistol-waving policemen. Perhaps the move is also intended to gouge a little more from their lordships' miserable parliamentary stipend, as they now have to pay for those fussy little bottles.

Nobody can accuse the Tory group on the Greater London Authority of not knowing their city. Angie Bray, GLA member for West Central, has written to Martin Salter MP, protesting at Ken Livingstone's plan for road congestion charges. "What seems to be forgotten," she upbraids him, "is that central London is the home to pockets of severe depravation [sic]."

The idea that Garry Hart, special adviser to the Lord Chancellor, has been placed in charge of an austerity programme for his boss takes some swallowing. He and Lord Irvine were spotted enjoying a lunch at the Garrick Club the other day that went on well into the evening. However, I am reliably informed that Irvine gets into the office at six in the morning. Fancy being rung up at that time of the day by His Grumpiness.

The all-party Films Group (chairman: Eric Pickles, shadow transport secretary) has chosen for its Christmas viewing, yes, you've guessed it, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Labour demands that the Hogwarts Express be upgraded to electric traction cannot be far behind. I also hear that Tom Watson MP has installed a PlayStation 2 on his Commons computer to while away the hours between divisions. Perhaps the time has arrived to install a creche - for the MPs.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

This article first appeared in the 03 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Who needs 12 when one will do?