Paul Routledge

It is just as well that Jack Straw is taking the flak, because the other cabinet Jack would otherwise be under heavy fire. Jack Cunningham is firmly set on a path to the back benches. "Junket Jack", as he has become known, has always had a taste for the finer things of life. In the past seven months he has been somebody's guest at Glyndebourne, Wimbledon and the English National Ballet, among others.

I hear that the Ulster Secretary, Mo Mowlam, will be brought back to replace Jack the Lad and become the star of the cabinet. I hope she does not take his non-job. The trouble about being the Enforcer is that you take the blame when things go wrong, but departmental ministers take the credit when things go right.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for the Home Secretary to reject, in his customary lofty style, the impertinent shafts aimed at him by the opposition. He once told a member of the parliamentary lobby that his question was "otiose". Before the poor fellow could recover, Jack the Dad went on to use the word "inchoate" - twice.

And before too much praise is heaped on the great helmsman for his watershed gear-change on the euro, I should tell you that he was resisting making the statement himself - preferring the Chancellor to do it - right until the night before.

I persuaded Charlie Whelan to come and talk to my class of journalism students at City University. They were as late as he is punctual, which doesn't promise well for their careers. They didn't let him off lightly, however. He wouldn't be drawn on the shortcomings of new Labour, but he did let his slip show on the subject of London's mayor. No, it shouldn't be Ken Livingstone. Why? Because he had publicly demanded the resignation of Gordon Brown, Charlie's old boss, to whom he is still fiercely loyal.

"I don't see why they haven't done him in already," he volunteered, warming to his theme. How? "Just draw up a shortlist and leave him off it." I get the feeling that, like many in the political village, he can't understand why Blair doesn't simply anoint Glenda Jackson. She wants the job, and she can see off Jeffrey Archer, who has delusions about having been in the job a year already.

You can forget about the Whelan spin-and-tell book, which is supposed to be commanding a £500,000 price tag. It's not true - for the time being, at any rate. But some other projects look interesting. I fancy the unauthorised biography of Alastair Campbell by the Express columnist Peter Oborne. The only drawback is that Oborne is a huntin', shootin', rural high Tory who is also a connoisseur of wine. Not to mention Guinness. Everything, in fact, that Ali isn't.

Oborne's oeuvre is due in time for the party conference season in the autumn, but I guess we will have to wait a bit longer for Julia Langdon's "with help" biography of Mo Mowlam. I asked Julia if she intended to deal with Mo's, ahem, active social life in her younger days. I swear she blushed.

One project obstinately refusing to leave the runway is the official life of William Hague, by Sarah Neville, the political editor of the Yorkshire Post. After nearly two years, she still hasn't found a publisher. Isn't there a rich Tory out there ready to put his hand in his wallet for the leader?

And so, on publication day, to Narberth - which is so far to the west of Wales that it's practically in Ireland - for Any Questions. This was my first appearance on the show, but it has already caused trouble. Ron Davies, the former Welsh secretary with undimmed political ambitions, was to have been one of the other guests. On hearing that I was taking part, he decided that he wasn't, leaving my old friend Peter Hain, the scandal-free Welsh minister, to take his place. I know I have written some sharp things about Brother Ron, but I think he would be far safer with me on live radio than he was in the dark with strangers on Clapham Common.

The writer is chief political commentator for the "Mirror". His biography of Peter Mandelson is available from the "NS" at the special price of £16.99 (inc p&p); his "Gordon Brown" at £12.99; or £25 for both. Ring 0800 7318496