Paul Routledge

While Tony Blair havers about the future composition of a refurbished House of Lords, the Commoners are secretly plotting revolt. An all-party Commons Supremacy Group of MPs, which wants to enshrine the pre-eminence of the lower house and to oppose the principle of election to the other place, has had its first meeting. Shades of the unholy alliance between Michael Foot and Enoch Powell, which wrecked earlier attempts at reform! Dave Clelland, an ex-Labour whip, emerged as the leader of the group, presently numbering about 25 MPs. They include some heavyweight backbenchers.

Meanwhile, despite protesting mightily his support for the Prime Minister over Mittalgate - the cash-for-influence steel scandal - the leader of the Commons, Robin Cook, is also stirring the Lords reform pot behind the scenes. Downing Street is discreetly floating a 50 per cent figure for elected peers, a 250 per cent rise on the Great Helmsman's original offer of only a few months ago. And people say inflation has been squeezed out of the system.

Harriet Harman, the sacked social security secretary now restored to glory as Solicitor-General, is evidently proud of her new job. Hattie has circulated to her Peckham constituents a letter with a photograph of her wearing a full-length judicial wig, a Ia Cherie Blair. And very fetching it is, too. Local wags insist the pic will improve her standing among voters in her crime-ridden south London constituency; they are more familiar with people in judicial wigs than with their MP.

Rod Richards, the disgraced former leader of the Welsh Assembly Tories and a former Westminster minister, has bravely informed the world: "I am an alcoholic." His honesty is by no means exhausted, however. He plans to write an autobiography spilling the beans on spite, indifference and uncomradely behaviour at the top of the Conservative Party. Provisional tide: The Unforgiving, though this may turn out to be too conciliatory for Hot Rod's intended portrayal of William Hague and his immediate circle.

Bob Marshall-Andrews, the ancien terrible of the Parliamentary Labour Party, thought it jolly fun to dress as a Camp X-Ray victim at the annual Westminster pantomime for the Macmillan Nurses' Fund. To wild applause, he explained that the mask over his mouth was a new Labour device to encourage free speech. It was only after the show that he realised that the man squirming in the front row was the American ambassador.

To Channel 4 for the annual political awards, at which the establishment pats itself on the back. Watching a procession of the great, the good and the fashionable - Roy Jenkins, William Hague, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Matthew Parris, Andrew Marr, Lord Williams of Mostyn and the rest - collecting their gongs, it was difficult to contradict a Green member of one of those provincial assemblies who, sporting a technicolour waistcoat, wailed that the whole thing is a fix. Not quite, but when MPs choose most of the winners, what can you expect but deferential voting?

Small wonder that a brief satirical film I did with my fellow columnist Charlie Whelan on the political books of the year ended up on the cutting-room floor. C4 executives said it was "too flippant". Unlike, I suppose, the presenter of the awards, Jon Snow, whose indiscretion concerning Baroness (Barbara) Castle - not in the broadcast version - is recounted by Sue MacGregor on page 7.

Further particulars from Labour's spring conference in Cardiff. Mr Whitehall-Mole says that David Blunkett held a dinner for cabinet members and their special advisers attending the conference. Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers and Estelle Morris graced the table. But Charles Clarke, the party chairman, was not invited. Imagine the horror of the Blunkett party when Clarke turned up with his own people to eat at the same restaurant.

Paul Routledge is chief political commentator for the Mirror

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.