The insider - Kevin Maguire on election brochures and butties

US corporates prepare for Brown's rise, Marr upsets Howard, and Patricia Hewitt in trouble

With even Tony Blair rumoured to be intending to carry a picture of Gordon Brown in his election leaflet, US corporations are preparing for an orderly transfer of power in Britain after the general election. The PR behemoth Fleishman-Hillard is distributing a glossy prospectus on the Brown agenda to its clients, ahead of the Chancellor's ascension. Warning multinational bosses that the next Labour premier's philosophy

is built on - wait for it - equity, the booklet predicts Brown will centralise power around himself. Alistair Darling is tipped to be Brown's first chancellor, followed by his adviser of the past eight years, Ed Balls, who is soon to become an MP. Missing from the brochure is the news that John Reid wants to be foreign secretary, a post achievable under Blair but not Brown - unless the Health Secretary accepts permanent secondment to a Siberian power station.

There is something of the dawn about the political leaders, as they compete for ever-earlier breakfast starts. The Lib Dems lay on bacon butties, Labour does croissants and the Tories, fresh air. The cream seats in the Tories' auditorium at their Victoria Street headquarters already look manky. Michael Howard states the obvious when he points out his picture is missing from the manifesto cover, which has pledges scrawled by advertising bods. The BBC political editor, Andrew Marr, whispers "shame"; those nearby giggle. Howard penalises him by breaking protocol and picking Channel 4's Elinor Goodman for the first question.

At Labour's manifesto launch, there is a rare sighting of the election co-ordinator, Alan Milburn, missing since the Blair-Brown remarriage of convenience. Comparisons are made to the recently re-spliced Ken and Deirdre Barlow in Coronation Street. Campaign staff argue Brown is still the bride, Deirdre, so Blair must be Ken - who, away from Weatherfield, is the Tory-leaning actor Bill Roach. Milburn is likened to an extra in the background of the Rovers Return, his glass of Newton & Ridley bitter always half empty rather than half full.

Wannabe Tory MPs are digging deep to uncover local connections. In Wrexham, the Mars executive Therese Coffey boasts she learned to ride her bicycle in the town one Christmas. In Alyn and Deeside, Lynne Hale makes great play of how she is a local councillor. That'll be local in Croydon, 300 miles away.

One election leaflet features Blair with George Bush - but it's produced by the eager Lib Dem Bridget Fox in Islington South. Fox sets her sights high with the boast: "It's Bridget or Blair."

Prospects for the Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, look as bright as an unsold Rover saloon after the Longbridge crisis. With the Blair-Brown conjoined twins in town, Hewitt was accused of patronising shop stewards during a meeting of union officials. I hear Margaret Beckett intends to spend more time caravanning, and Hewitt could be moving sideways to Environment.

This column's attempt at irony was lost on the NS editor last week. He garbled an item about Mark Thatcher, failing to grasp that there really is a Lords chef of that name, investigated but not charged over allegations of taking bribes from a fishmonger. But not that one: Maggie's boy hasn't gone from coups to cod.

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

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 18 April 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Faith invaders